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Following last week’s dramatic joint announcement out of Washington and Havana, many doors are likely to open for Cuba. One priority for the Cuban government should be membership in the multilateral development banks (MDBs).
For the first time in its seven-decade-long history, World Bank staff staged a work stoppage earlier this month. Staff are unhappy about the “Change Process,” aka the ongoing internal reorganization that President Kim initiated on his arrival at the bank now more than two years ago.
More electricity. Fewer cases of diarrhea. Fewer lives lost to deadly storms. These are among the objectives of the development planners and financiers meeting next week in Washington at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s annual meetings.
The World Bank is in the process of reforming its procurement system, the set of rules that borrowers have to follow when they use Bank financing to buy goods and services. Most of the proposals sound very sensible: much less “prior review” of the process for smaller contracts (World Bank staff looking over bid documents, evaluation reports, and contract documents before they are finalized); more flexibility to use other people’s procurement systems if they’re high quality; more flexibility to use quality alongside cost in evaluating bids in return for greater transparency.
At its founding, a primary function of World Bank was to help developing countries develop the energy, transport and water infrastructure essential for economic development. Half a century later, as the World Bank Country Director for Brazil I saw the products of this – the World Bank funded one major hydropower plant in each of the first ten years that the Bank operated in Brazil, thus helping Brazil build a low-cost energy platform for economic growth in Brazil for the next 50 years.
One of the biggest hopes people expressed about Jim Kim’s nomination to become president of the World Bank was that he would bring a fresh perspective, focused on achieving results, rather than reinforce the institution’s bureaucratic machinery. Unfortunately, President Kim’s recent remarks at the Center for Foreign Relations suggest that bureaucratic inertia is winning.
We just ran 23 million queries of the World Bank's website. Technically, a piece of computer code did the work, occupying a PC in an empty cubicle in our office for about 9 weeks, gradually sweeping up nearly every bit of information available in the World Bank’s global database on poverty and inequality, known as PovcalNet.
This year, a common theme of those discussions was financing for infrastructure investment in developing countries. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that these conversations tend to focus exclusively on the need for new bricks-and-mortar infrastructure to meet needs for energy, water, or transport services, and seldom acknowledge the need to maintain the ecological infrastructure that already provides a large portion of those services for many of the world’s poor.
The World Bank loves to talk about the importance of “good governance” and “strong institutions” and “rule of law” as keys to development success. Presumably that means that organizations are managed in accordance to their own legal procedures. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the primus inter pares of the many units under the World Bank group umbrella (IDA, IFC, MIGA) has an agreed upon Articles of Agreement. Article One is worth reproducing in its entirety: