'Winter is coming': Indonesia's President Jokowi urges unity as he sounds warning for global economy

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on finance ministers and central bank governors to "cushion the blows from trade wars, technical disruption and market turmoil".
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on finance ministers and central bank governors to "cushion the blows from trade wars, technical disruption and market turmoil".PHOTO: AFP

NUSA DUA - Drawing from popular television series Game Of Thrones, Indonesia's President Joko Widodo warned that "winter is coming" when he urged countries to unite and cooperate, rather than compete, to address mounting issues from climate change to technology disruption.

Speaking on the International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual meetings plenary in Bali on Friday (Oct 12), Mr Joko said the world is seeing an imbalance of economic growth: The United States, the world's largest economy, is enjoying robust expansion, while many others across the globe are struggling with various woes stemming from escalating trade tensions, industrial shocks due to technology disruption and market pressure.

Comparing the current state of global landscape, marked by heated rivalry among some economic powers, with the blockbuster TV series where several "great families" and "great houses" compete to claim the Iron Throne, Mr Joko warned that "the evil winter is coming" and it can bring massive destruction to the world.

"With the threat from evil winter, they finally realise it's not important who will occupy the Iron Throne. The most important thing is the mutual power to defeat the evil winter so that global disaster won't happen, so that the world doesn't turn into a wrecked barren land that causes suffering to all of us," Mr Joko said.

"I want to assure that we are entering the final session of global economic expansion that is full of rivalry and competition, and that can turn into something which is more critical than the global financial crisis 10 years ago."

He added: "We depend on you all, the monetary and fiscal policymakers to keep the commitment of global cooperation."

Mr Joko pointed out some pressing concerns that also require strong cooperation from countries to tackle: Climate change and a polluted food chain because of marine debris.

 
 
 
 

To curb the impact of climate change, for instance, the world may need to increase an annual investment in renewable energy by around 400 per cent globally, to save the planet and many lives, he said.

"Therefore, we need to ask if now is the right time to embrace rivalry and competition," he said.

"Are we too busy competing against each other and fighting with each other that we fail to realise the big threat shadowing all of us, that there's threat facing both rich and poor countries, large and small nations alike?"

He called on finance ministers and central bank governors to "cushion the blows from trade wars, technical disruption and market turmoil".

"I do hope you will do your part to encourage leaders to address the situation appropriately. Monetary and fiscal policies that can shoulder trade wars, technology disruption and market uncertainties are necessary," he said.

He then drew raucous laughter with a further reference to the fantasy show's "Mother of Dragons" character - in a nod to IMF chief Christine Lagarde, who smiled broadly at the comment.

Ms Lagarde, who also spoke at the same event, acknowledged the global imbalances caused by trade, which despite having created prosperity, also caused a backlash, as too many people have been left out.

To cope with the changing economic landscape, she proposed a "new multilateralism", an international cooperation which is "more inclusive, more people-centred and more result-oriented".

Ms Lagarde cited an agenda to achieve Sustainable Development Goals as an example of where strong cooperation matters, as low-income countries need an extra US$520 billion (S$715 billion) each year for investment in vital sectors, such as health, education, water and infrastructure, by 2030.

"This partnership is integral to the new multilateralism - not least because tensions arising from exclusion and climate change do not respect national borders. In that sense, solidarity is self interest," she said.