The American State Department-funded International Visitor Leadership programme provided international economists from the western hemisphere with an overview of the state of the American economy and how it is trying to get out of the recession. The programme State Department hosts every year usually covers different areas and topics. This specific programme was held from July 27 to August 15 and was entitled, "The Economic Recovery and the Evolving Global Financial System." Participants in the programme were macro and micro economists and business and economics journalists.
They were exposed to a wide range of views in meetings with officials, from economists to bankers to trade unionists to small business owners. They travelled across several cities, including Washington and New York, and met with officials from federal agencies and private sector organisations. The aim of the programme was to provide an understanding of how the United States economy works at the federal level, the state level, at the level of the private sector and what is being done now to climb out of the worst recession the US has found itself in since the Great Depression of 1930s. The programme began in Washington DC with a macro-economic view of the US economy.
Participants in the programme had wide-ranging meetings with a cross-section of groups that impact on the American economy, including federal agencies, think tanks and multilateral organisations. In Washington DC, participants visited the Paul Peterson Institute for International Economics, US Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Department of the Treasury, US Federal Reserve, Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Financial Services Committee from the US House of Representatives.
Meetings were also held with representatives of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
International visitors were able to get a general understanding of US economic system and how it is inter-related with the outside world, especially the other countries in the western hemisphere. After spending a week in Washington DC, participants in the programme moved to New York.
Senior execs share their experiences
In New York, appointments involved meetings with Business Week, the Museum of American Finance and the Conference Board.
The Conference Board, which has been in existence for 90 years, makes provisions for senior business executives worldwide to share practical experiences with their international counterparts.
There was also a meeting at the New York University Stern School of Business, where a group of professors from the department of economics met with the participants and discussed the technical aspects of the causes of the economic recession in the US. They also promoted a new book, Restoring Financial Stability: How to Repair a Failed System. This is an executive summary of white papers written by academics at the New York University Stern Business School.
After a couple days in New York, international visitors headed to the American Midwest to the State of Missouri where they spent a week. In Kansas City, Missouri, the group took an indepth view of that state's economy. There was a visit and tour of the General Motors plant in the Kansas City area. Participants in the programme learned that there are hopes for a strong recovery by New General Motors. The participants also visited the Federal Reserve office in Kansas City. A meeting with the Small Business Association in Kansas City was also scheduled and the participants were able to hear about the challenges facing small American businesses during the current recession.
Participants also went to the neighbouring Kansas State–not to be confused with Kansas City in Missouri–where they met with small business owners and visited a ranch there, where they met with cattle ranch owners and had discussions of the agricultural and rural economy. In Miami, the schedule was a bit lighter as many of the meetings the State Department had originally organised had to be modified because many officials were on summer holidays or out of state. One of the most significant meetings in Miami involved a trip to the Florida International University, where international visitors had an appointment that involved the impact of hurricanes on the insurance industry in the US.
Getting past the recession
Uppermost in the minds of all Americans–be they investment bankers, trade unionists, government policy makers or just ordinary Americans–is getting out of the recession. Most Americans we spoke to are optimistic that they have what it takes to survive these difficult times and to get out of the recession. After all, it will not be the first time that Americans have beaten the odds of a crisis financial or otherwise. American history is full of examples of resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The programme at the end of the day showed participants, the economic challenges that are Americans are facing at all levels and, just as importantly, that the entire world economy is inter-locked and what happens in the US affects the rest of the world.