As managing director and COO of the World Bank Group, Sri Mulyani Indrawati has a mandate to increase prosperity and reduce economic inequality around the globe. Lawrie Holmes discovers how she's set about this titanic task
The challenge that Sri Mulyani Indrawati faces in her job is truly monumental. Her mission is to promote the sharing of prosperity across the world, tackling seemingly intractable global problems, such as extreme poverty, in the process. The most senior woman at the World Bank is responsible for its affairs in Africa, much of Asia, Latin America and Europe. Her beat therefore covers some of the poorest and most disaster-stricken regions on the planet. While its sister organisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), addresses short-term crises, the World Bank operates as a medium- or long-term partner to countries.
Before joining the World Bank, Indrawati was Indonesia's finance minister from 2005 to 2010. There she built a nononsense reputation for combating corruption while leading a turnaround in the nation's fortunes. In her current role she therefore understands well that, in order to deliver the biggest gains, a host of big problems need to be solved. These include improving educational standards, empowering women, tackling medical challenges such as Ebola and rebuilding war-torn states.
The list of obstacles--especially in the most deprived regions--is almost endless. But the energy that Indrawati demonstrates in her role has marked her out as the key figure to watch, even though she is one of two MDs below the World Bank Group's president, Jim Yong Kim. Consistently near the top of the Forbes list of the world's most powerful women, Indrawati was also declared the world's best finance minister by Euromoney magazine in 2006.
It's no surprise that she is a time-poor globetrotter--much in demand as a speaker at international events shaping the world's economic future. After initially organising our interview in London to coincide with her visit to a conference on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, we switched to the World Bank's home in Washington before settling for New York. There she jointly chairs a UN-sponsored summit that monitors the gender gap worldwide. She works alongside big names such as Hillary Clinton and New York's former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, in addressing this key issue.
Despite her hectic morning, Indrawati is all fired up when I ask her whether the pair of big proposed trade deals are a cause for optimism in 2015. These are the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP), between the EU and the US, and the trans-Pacific partnership (TTP). Several countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, the US and Vietnam, have been negotiating the latter (see "Tippingpoint", page 32).
With a nod to the continuing US recovery, tempered by concerns about the economies of Europe, Japan and China, Indrawati says that she is optimistic about the two probable agreements, because they can "increase or facilitate transactions between many countries, including the US and China. The transformation of China's economy has...