Inside the World Bank's Black Box Allocation System: How Well Does IDA Allocate Resources to the Neediest and Most Vulnerable Countries? - Working Paper 216

June 24, 2010

During the last few International Development Association (IDA) replenishment negotiations, several large donors have pressed for reforms to further increase the share of IDA resources provided to the neediest and most vulnerable countries. While the proposed reforms take different forms, the philosophical thrust is the same—push IDA’s focus further down the development chain.

Against this backdrop, this paper explores just how well IDA’s existing performance-based allocation (PBA) system actually addresses these issues. To achieve this, I examine how IDA allocations are distributed at each successive stage of the PBA methodology based upon a number of need and vulnerability measures. Next, I apply two simple measures to gauge IDA’s performance: (1) whether per-capita allocations to the neediest and most vulnerable countries are equal to or greater than those for the best off countries and (2) whether allocations to the neediest and most vulnerable countries increase between the baseline and final allocation scenarios.

Based on these criteria, IDA has a mixed track record. IDA’s performance is very modest with respect to the relative share allocated to the neediest or most vulnerable countries. Of the eight measures examined, only two illustrate parity between final allocations to the bottom and top quartile of countries. However, the litany of PBA exceptions clearly helps to redistribute resources in absolute terms. Per-capita allocations to the neediest and most vulnerable countries more than doubles between the baseline and final PBA scenarios for every need and vulnerability indicator examined. Clearly, the existing system has several built-in biases to redistribute resources to these countries. However, these exceptions fall short from ensuring full parity that some IDA donors may wish to achieve. As such, the philosophical debate among key IDA donors likely will continue for the foreseeable future.


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