The World Bank Group (WBG) is a family of five international organizations responsible for providing finance and advice to countries for the purposes of economic development and eliminating poverty. The Bank came into formal existence on 27 December 1945 following international ratification of the Bretton Woods agreements, which emerged from the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference (1 July – 22 July 1944). It also provided the foundation of the Osiander-Committee in 1951, responsible for the preparation and evaluation of the World Development Report. Commencing operations on 25 June 1946, it approved its first loan on 9 May 1947 ($250M to France for postwar reconstruction, in real terms the largest loan issued by the Bank to date). Its five agencies are:
The term "World Bank" generally refers to the IBRD and IDA, whereas the World Bank Group is used to refer to the institutions collectively.
The World Bank's (i.e. the IBRD and IDA's) activities are focused on developing countries, in fields such as human development (e.g. education, health), agriculture and rural development (e.g. irrigation, rural services), environmental protection (e.g. pollution reduction, establishing and enforcing regulations), infrastructure (e.g. roads, urban regeneration, electricity), and governance (e.g. anti-corruption, legal institutions development). The IBRD and IDA provide loans at preferential rates to member countries, as well as grants to the poorest countries. Loans or grants for specific projects are often linked to wider policy changes in the sector or the economy. For example, a loan to improve coastal environmental management may be linked to development of new environmental institutions at national and local levels and the implementation of new regulations to limit pollution.
The World Bank Institute is the capacity development branch of the World Bank, providing learning and other capacity-building programs to member countries. Two countries, Venezuela and Ecuador, have recently withdrawn from the World Bank.
Technically the World Bank is part of the United Nations system, but its governance structure is different: each institution in the World Bank Group is owned by its member governments, which subscribe to its basic share capital, with votes proportional to shareholding. Membership gives certain voting rights that are the same for all countries but there are also additional votes which depend on financial contributions to the organization. The President of the World Bank is nominated by the President of the United States and elected by the Bank's Board of Governors. As of November 1, 2006 the United States held 16.4% of total votes, Japan 7.9%, Germany 4.5%, and France and the United Kingdom each held 4.3%. As changes to the Bank's Charter require an 85% super-majority, the US can block any major change in the Bank's governing structure.
The IBRD has 185 member governments, and the other institutions have between 140 and 176 members. The institutions of the World Bank Group are all run by a Board of Governors meeting once a year. Each member country appoints a governor, generally its Minister of Finance. On a daily basis the World Bank Group is run by a Board of 24 Executive Directors to whom the governors have delegated certain powers. Each Director represents either one country (for the largest countries), or a group of countries. Executive Directors are appointed by their respective governments or the constituencies. The agencies of the World Bank are each governed by their Articles of Agreement that serve as the legal and institutional foundation for all of their work. The Bank also serves as one of several Implementing Agencies for the United Nations Global Environment Facility (GEF).as per provision world bank donates loan at higher rate.
On May 30 2007, US President George W. Bush nominated former deputy secretary of state Robert Zoellick to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank. The Executive Directors unanimously approved Zoellick, effective July 1 2007, as the 11th President of the Bank for a five-year term. Robert Zoellick is the former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. State Department and the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs' Board of International Advisors. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and Phi Beta Kappa from Swarthmore College.
Zoellick announced in October, 2007 that his priorities for the World Bank included increasing efforts to reduce poverty in the world's poorest countries, increasing support for neglected Arab countries, increasing support for countries emerging from violent conflicts, addressing poverty in "emerging" economies like India and China, increasing emphasis on environmental issues (especially global warning), and improving access to treatments for HIV and malaria.
The World Bank Group up until recently was headed by Paul Wolfowitz, appointed on June 1 2005. Wolfowitz, a former United States Deputy Secretary of Defense, was nominated by US President George W. Bush to replace James D. Wolfensohn. On May 17, 2007, it was announced that Wolfowitz would resign effective June 30, 2007. This was due to allegations of improper conduct involving Wolfowitz and his partner, Shaha Riza, who worked at the World Bank, for whom he had allegedly arranged a generous pay increase. He had previously asked to be recused from the deliberations regarding her pay, but his request for recusal was denied. The committee in accepting his resignation admitted that they were also at fault in the matter. Prior to this the committee had exonerated him of any wrongdoing.
During this same period, the Bank’s failure to adequately consider social environmental factors was most evident in the 1976 Indonesian Transmigration program (Transmigration V). This project was funded after the establishment of the Bank’s OESA (environmental) office in 1971. According to the Bank critic Le Prestre, Transmigration V was the “largest resettlement program ever attempted... designed ultimately to transfer, over a period of twenty years, 65 million of the nation’s 165 million inhabitants from the overcrowded islands of Java, Bali, Madura, and Lombok...” (175). The objectives were: relief of the economic and social problems of the inner islands, reduction of unemployment on Java, relocation of manpower to the outer islands, the “strengthen[ing of] national unity through ethnic integration, and improve[ment of] the living standard of the poor” (Le Prestre 175).
Putting aside the political aspects of such a project, it otherwise failed as the new settlements went out of control; local populations fought with the migrators and the tropical forest was devastated (destroying the lives of indigenous peoples). Also, “[s]ome settlements were established in inhospitable sites, and failures were common;” these concerns were noted by the Bank's environmental unit whose recommendations (to Bank management) and analyses were ignored (Le Prestre, 176). Funding continued through 1987, despite the problems noted and despite the Bank’s published stipulations (1982) concerning the treatment of groups to be resettled.
More recent authors have pointed out that the World Bank learned from the mistakes of projects such as Transmigration V and greatly improved its social and environmental controls, especially during the 1990s. It has established a set of "Safeguard Policies" that set out wide ranging basic criteria that projects must meet to be acceptable. The policies are demanding, and as Mallaby (reference below) observes: "Because of the combined pressures from Northern NGOs and shareholders, the Bank's project managers labor under "safeguard" rules covering ten sensitives issues...no other development lender is hamstrung in this way" (page 389). The ten policies cover: Environmental Assessment, Natural Habitats, Forests, Pest Management, Cultural Property, Involuntary Resettlement, Indigenous Peoples, Safety of Dams, Disputed Areas, and International Waterways.
Recognizing that any program to assist in controlling corruption worldwide needs to start with the example of best practices at home, the Bank has taken initiatives to stamp out conflicts of interest and any possible corrupt practices among its own staff.Beginning in 2005, Paul Wolfowitz, President of the World Bank, allegedly used his position to influence a pay and grade increase for his girlfriend Shaha Riza. Riza, who had held a position at the bank before Wolfowitz was appointed president in June 2005, was required to leave the bank and re-assigned to the State Department to avoid a conflict of interest, working in the office of Liz Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, while remaining on the bank's payroll. Her salary was increased from nearly $133,000 to tax-free compensation of $180,000, and eventually reached $193,590 after subsequent raises. The panel concluded that the salary increase "at Mr. Wolfowitz's direction" was "in excess of the range" allowed under bank rules. As a result of this controversy, Paul Wolfowotz has resigned effective June 30 2007..
The World Bank head of "Institutional Integrity" department is Suzanne Folsom. She is the wife of George Folsom who is the President of the International Republican Institute and a personal friend of Paul Wolfowitz. According to the Financial Times her appointment as "a person close to Mr Wolfowitz, and with a political background...to a unit that was seen as independent of the president’s office since it was set up in 2001" was met with great concern by some senior staff. Wolfowitz's efforts to control the bank are seen by some senior staff to have led to "a lack of consultation by Mr Wolfowitz’s advisers, and an atmosphere of suspicion.
The World Bank has long been criticized by a range of non-governmental organizations and academics, notably including its former Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz, who is equally critical of the International Monetary Fund, the US Treasury Department, and US and other developed country trade negotiators. Critics argue that the so-called free market reform policies – which the Bank advocates in many cases – in practice are often harmful to economic development if implemented badly, too quickly ("shock therapy"), in the wrong sequence, or in very weak, uncompetitive economies.
World Bank standards and methods are, however, highly valued and adopted in areas such as transparent procedures for competitive procurement and environmental standards for project evaluation. World Bank also engages in funding the education of promising young people from developing countries through its graduate scholarship programs.
In Masters of Illusion: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations (1996), Catherine Caufield makes a sharp criticism of the assumptions and structure of the World Bank operation, arguing that at the end it harms southern nations rather than promoting them. In terms of assumption, Caufield first criticizes the highly homogenized and Western recipes of "development" held by the Bank. To the World Bank, different nations and regions are indistinguishable, and ready to receive the "uniform remedy of development". The danger of this assumption is that to attain even small portions of success, Western approaches to life are adopted and traditional economic structures and values are abandoned. A second assumption is that poor countries cannot modernize without money and advice from abroad.
A number of intellectuals in developing countries have argued that the World Bank is deeply implicated in contemporary modes of donor and NGO driven imperialism and that its intellectual contribution functions, primarily, to seek to try and blame the poor for their condition.
Defenders of the World Bank contend that no country is forced to borrow its money. The Bank provides both loans and grants. Even the loans are concessional since they are given to countries that have no access to international capital markets. Furthermore, the loans, both to poor and middle-income countries, are at below market-value interest rates. The World Bank argues that it can help development more through loans than grants, because money repaid on the loans can then be lent for other projects.
In ''The Globalisation Tapes (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407827/) an Indonesian palm plantation worker states that his son has to help him meet his daily quota. For this ton of fruit that is worth over $31 he and his unpaid son get only $1.14 in wages.