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Not for the first time, the World Bank has reminded me of NBC’s America’s Got Talent, the hit TV show where judges Mel B, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, and Howard Stern rate amateur singers, jugglers, and comedians.
The World Bank has decided to make this problem – the divergence of the organization’s rhetoric on “extreme poverty” and their clients’ desire for support in their national development agendas – even worse. They have announced that their goal is to “eradicate extreme poverty” (while only “monitoring” the income of the poorest 40 percent in each country—but with no goal).
The new World Bank Group Strategy posted this week for discussion by the Development Committee, the ministerial-level forum that oversees the World Bank and the IMF, provides a solid analytical foundation for what has so far been a messy and disjointed re-organization effort. The release of the paper coincided with a speech by bank president Jim Kim that covered much of the same ground, but the strategy paper digs deeper. For those of us who believe that the World Bank has a crucial role to play in addressing the problems of the 21st Century, there is much to applaud.
Visitans Perito works at the World Bank as an education specialist, and has just set off on a two week mission to the country of Peripheria, a poor, land-locked former Soviet Republic in Central Asia, about which he knows very little, except that everyone seems to agree it has a totally dysfunctional public school system.
When we make presentations on COD AIDat development agencies, we are frequently told: “Oh, we’re already doing that.” The more we investigate, however, the fewer cases we find where agencies are really disbursing funds against independently verified outcomes in a hands-off fashion. We’re tempted to say “close but no cigar.”
In response to our August 5 blog criticizing the World Bank’s current reorganization plans, a few readers wrote to ask us if we could come up with a better idea. This is a daunting challenge. We’ve heard that the Bank has spent millions over more than a year to generate more than 40 ideas about how to tweak the Bank’s organization and has intensively discussed three overarching ideas, for none of which we have actually seen a background paper – or even a PowerPoint. So with brains unfettered by facts, uncluttered by concept papers, bereft of briefings and emboldened by ignorance, here goes…
The World Bank is reorganizing. Bloomberg reports that president Jim Yong Kim has written staff about a shake-up at the bank’s highest levels in preparation for implementing an as-yet-to-be-announced new institutional strategy. Such can be unsettling for bank employees, some of whom will find their jobs on the line and others who may get new bosses. Is there any reason for the rest of the world to care?
Over the past few months, quite a bit of high-level rhetoric has surrounded World Bank funding of coal projects in developing countries. On one side, Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, stated that “it is no longer necessary [for the World Bank to invest in coal projects] because we have many other technologies that can come forward.” On the other side, World Bank president Jim Kim stated that “we will look for everything we can possibly do to avoid [coal projects] but look, poor people should not pay the price with their lives of mistakes that people have been making in the developed world for a very long time.”
You may have seen the small flurry of media attention given last week to the World Bank’s July 1 posting of its latest country classification by income. These are used extensively by the Bank in both its operations and its data products, such as the hugely popular World Development Indicators, as well as by many others outside the Bank. They influence aid allocations (both multilateral and bilateral).