In praise of the World Bank

Clare Short in The New Statesman writes in praise of the World Bank:

One of the great problems in the field of development is that there are too many players. Each developed country has its own programmes in the poorest countries, and so do a large number of UN agencies and NGOs. Each has a bank account, reporting requirements and missions that take up the time and energy of government ministers, who spend more time accounting to the donors than to their own electorates.

As we try to shift from unsustainable projects to an investment fund for helping countries improve their own institutions, it is the World Bank that makes the best long-term analysis and provides a framework around which other donors can co-ordinate.
Considerable progress was made under James Wolfensohn. There is more to be done, but weakening the bank would reinvent development as a mere series of charitable projects to make donor governments popular with NGOs and the wider public.

I could not agree more.   It is not the World Bank that should have to justify its existence (a justification made through its positive impact every day) but the proliferation of bilateral aid agencies and NGOs.  I remain to be convinced that the benefits of diversity and competition between aid agencies outweigh the costs of proliferation.


3 thoughts on “In praise of the World Bank”

  1. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds (sort of) by minimising the number of agencies in a country that make demands on that country’s government (accountability and so forth) but by also having a proliferation of agencies that do not impose that sort of cost? I don’t know if this makes sense or not, but do charities or NGOs embarking on relatively self-contained projects (building a school, supplying medical equipment) impose the same overhead on recipients?

  2. I agree, but the World Bank would do a great service to itself, donor governments and developing countries if it would only produce its reports and analyses in plain English.  The reports are full of clever sounding but meaningless jargon.  Wooly and foggy reports do suggest wooly brains.

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