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Every July 1, the World Bank releases updated income classifications for the new fiscal year, often resulting in headlines about various countries’ graduations to “middle income” status. But despite the global attention to these classifications and graduations, there is still widespread confusion about their meaning and significance. Let’s explore three myths that could be leading you astray.
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.
I have a goal of running a faster marathon at 47 than I did at 27. It helps that I wasn’t exactly a world class runner twenty years ago, and I still have a few years to reach my goal. But if you wanted to place a bet on me, you would probably want to know what my plan is for getting there.
Many obstacles to development transcend national borders and therefore cannot be adequately addressed within a single country. These include issues such as drug resistance and other cross-border health risks, financial crises contagion, money laundering, water scarcity, fisheries collapse and, of course, climate change. Economists call efforts to address these problems Global Public Goods (GPGs). Like other public goods, funding for GPGs is chronically in short supply: of $125 billion in annual official development assistance (ODA ) only about $3 billion goes to GPGs.
World Bank presidents have often defined their success in part via ever-larger replenishments for IDA, the Bank’s soft loan window. But at his first ever Bank-Fund annual meetings this weekend in Tokyo, Jim Yong Kim should explain to the gathered illuminati why this is no longer an appropriate metric.
The Future of IDA
After 52 years, IDA is facing a watershed moment. Drastic changes in both the supply and demand for the World Bank’s cheap long-term loans to governments of poor countries requires rethinking IDA’s purpose, tools, and broad role. In Tokyo, Kim should be sure that shareholders understand that the future of IDA depends, not on its size, but on adapting its mandate and business model to certain new realities:
One of the pressing questions for Jim Kim in the years ahead as the World Bank’s new president is what to do as many countries graduate out of IDA, the bank’s fund for grants and concessional loans to the poorest countries. To generate ideas and possible directions for IDA’s business model, CGD has convened a Future of IDA Working Group. The group’s final report with recommendations is due out in early summer, in time for ample discussion prior to the IDA 16 Mid-Term Review this fall.