The World Bank insists commercial finance is necessary for achieving economic recovery and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but does little to ensure profit-hungry commercial finance serves the public interest.
By failing to address pressing challenges within their purview, the second-ever Bretton Woods institutions’ (BWIs) annual meetings on the African continent, in Marrakech in October 2023, set the developing world even further back.
The IMF and World Bank closed its historic Annual Meetings in Marrakech – the first in Africa for 50 years – without delivering a response that matches the urgency of the moment.
The institutions still failed to recognise that we are in the worst global south debt crisis ever. Their rhetoric on the impact of severe debt burdens was not matched by action to speed up their sluggish response so far. Beyond baby steps by the Global Sovereign Debt Roundtable to agree on basic elements of debt restructurings, neither the IMF and World Bank, nor the G20 Finance Ministers, took any steps to respond to the calls by civil society and global south leaders, to deliver on debt cancellation and debt architecture reform.
A civil society briefing – published in response to the World Bank’s public consultation on the ‘Evolution Roadmap’ and endorsed by 74 organisations and indidivuals (see pp. 9-10) – calls for a World Bank Group roadmap that prioritises people, participation and the planet over profit and economic growth. It provides an alternative analysis of the current ‘crisis of development’ which the Evolution Roadmap seeks to respond to; presents key evidence on the damaging effects of the ´Cascade´ approach to date; and proposes an alternative pathway towards a more equitable and sustainable World Bank Group ‘evolution’, which would reverse the flow of the Cascade, putting public interest – including grassroots voices, and economic, social, women’s, girls’ and human rights – at the centre of the public development paradigm for the 21st century, rather than the profits of corporations and private finance
This CAFOD report shows how the World Bank is failing in its duty to tackle poverty by promoting a model of agricultural development that benefits large-scale agribusiness at the expense of some of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers.
As governments converge on Washington for the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank spring meeting, they are confronted with the daunting prospect that 2023 might be the year that the world will be hit by a developing country debt crisis much like that which took place in the early 1980’s that led to the infamous lost decade in Latin America and Africa. A number of defaults on debt repayments over the last three years have served as the alarm bells for a possibly even bigger implosion.
The World Bank Group (WBG) is one of the largest multilateral development banks in the world. Its professed mission: to end poverty and promote shared prosperity in developing countries.
But social movements and civil society, especially in the global South, have questioned the WBG’s economic role for decades. They have been criticising the United States’ (US) domination of the institution. The WBG has been opposed for sinking countries in debt, for imposing conditions on said loans, for shaping economies to the benefit of big business instead of people, and even for backing military dictatorships. Seventy-nine years since its establishment, a reckoning is necessary on the WBG’s performance as a supposed development bank.
The World Bank is bringing back its flagship annual report on the ease of doing business worldwide after a data manipulation scandal marred the last version, prompting the bank to scrap the project in 2021. There’s a new brand, a revised methodology, and a reformed mission focused on capturing a more honest snapshot of conditions for the private sector.
Drawing on the specific case of IMF and World Bank’s response to the multiple crisis triggered by the pandemic, a journal article shows that there is a discourse-practice disjuncture in the Bretton Woods institutions approach to public services as they continue to favour austerity and market-oriented solutions for the delivery of public services. The article therefore seeks to demystify the institutions rhetoric and demand the adoption of a different way of understanding public services, and social policy more broadly.
What Global Social Justice already questioned in January 2019 is now becoming mainstream in the NGO world:
From the Bretton Woods Project:
“The Covid-19 pandemic and its related shocks have revealed the value of public services and social protection floors. Institutions tasked with ending poverty like the World Bank are increasingly under pressure to support vital public services and play a key role in wider universal social protection (USP) discussions. The World Bank recently released its latest commitment to social protection: A Social Protection and Jobs Compass to “chart a course towards USP,” which provides guidance to Bank staff on jobs and social protection issues.
Following a limited consultation process, civil society were eager to respond to the Compass. Lena Simet of Human Rights Watchconcluded that the Compass guidance note, “makes a strong commitment to USP. However, its guidance on how countries can get there is problematic.”
The Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) have long been challenged on their claims of being pro-poor in their approach to social protection. A wealth of evidence has highlighted the flaws of the targeted approaches to social protection preferred by the BWIs, such as Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs), which have been shown to be ineffective at reaching the poorest – as the Bank itself acknowledged – prone to corruption, and less likely to protect human rights than universal schemes.
Instead of simply dismissing public social insurance and potentially creating costly parallel structures, we call on the World Bank to support countries in adapting their social security systems to be more inclusive. DR LAURA ALFERS, WIEGO