by Barbara Black
Theodora Welch is
doing her PhD in business strategy at Concordia, but from the vantage
point of Harvard.
A recipient of the Harvard Information Infrastructure Project Research
Fellowship, she is doing her research at the Belfer Center for Science
and International Affairs in the John F. Kennedy School of Government
and the Center for Business and Government.
Shes studying privatization around the world; specifically, the
interface between public and private telecommunications ownership in developing
Its a fruitful area for research, she says, because the models for
studies of privatization have traditionally been U.S. ones, and these
have a remarkable way of breaking down when theyre applied outside
the U.S. even to Canada.
Were so [geographically] close, but our business sector is
so different, Welch said in a telephone interview from Cambridge,
Mass. Imagine stretching that [American] model right around the
Welch did her undergraduate degree in political science at McGill and
her MBA at Concordia, specializing in finance. Then she had a great opportunity
to broaden her horizons: an internship at the Canadian embassy in Washington,
D.C., where she worked with international financial institutions, particularly
development banks. She has also done stints as a consultant for the World
Bank, Private Sector Development Department, while working on her doctorate.
I was able to see where business policy and public policy come together,
on a global scale, she recalled. She has been looking at 73 transactions
in the developing world involving telecommunications systems. In all cases,
and unlike the American experience, these systems were started by the
state, and in only a few cases, in partnership with private operators.
I actually have three fellowships that bring me in contact with
three groups, she explained. One group is involved with changes
in the information technology sector, another looks at international phenomena,
and the third is concerned with business and government policies.
Welch loves living in Cambridge. Her apartment is close to the Divinity
School, the original department of Harvard when it was founded
in 1636, and she walks through a bit of Americana every day on her way
to the Kennedy School.
Its a vibrant village expensive, modern, dynamic, filled
with young people, she said enthusiastically.
Now in the final phase of her doctorate, she expects to teach in Boston,
Washington or Ontario.
World Bank applies
pressure to improve governance
Welchs internship in Washington brought her into direct contact
with the World Bank, which is headquartered there.
She says that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are linked
in the public mind and operate in tandem, but seen at closer range, they
are also often in conflict.
The IMF is a bank that helps countries tally up what they owe. Countries
trade with one another, and at the end of the day, or the year, some owe
money to others, she explained.
In fact, some may owe a lot. Some may not owe so much, but still
may be unable to pay. Others are always being owed by other countries.
The World Bank is set up to help redress these imbalances over time,
to support economic development so that trade balances will be more rather
than less advantageous for developing economics. Unlike the IMF, it is
a policy organization; a development policy is always attached to its
Welch said that in the past few years, since its policies went so drastically
wrong in post-communist Russia, there has been a shift in orientation.
Until the mid- to late 1990s, she explained, privatization
initiatives were aimed largely at poverty reform. Now theres an
emphasis on governance. That means that loans to governments in support
of safeguards to check corruption and other inequities.