Achievements

“Our mission is to fight poverty with passion and professionalism for lasting results and to help people help themselves and their environment by providing resources, sharing knowledge, building capacity and forging partnerships in the public and private sectors.”

So states the World Bank in its’ web page “About”, if you want to know exactly what does it do, or at least, what it has been created for.

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,pagePK:50004410~piPK:36602~theSitePK:29708,00.html

The first thought I had after reading this was: “How would be the world then, if there wasn’t a World Bank?” It was hard for me to imagine a worse scenario than the current, but actually, there is always room for things to get even worse.

I could have kept on reading and somehow got lost in the huge amount of information the web page has on it. But I thought it might make sense to keep it simple, i.e.: let’s analyze the “mission”. It’s a clear, brief and straight paragraph.

This could sound a bit scientific, but this analysis has to be somehow methodologically and logically framed. Otherwise, one can dive oneself in a very complex whirlwind of data, loosing perspective and worst of all, missing the purpose of the search.

I’ll deliberately keep myself at a conceptual level, because I’m not intending to carry out an investigation, but try to have an idea of how effective organizations like this one are, according to their own principles.

So I will divide this brief study in pairs of categories, so one can assign an answer only to a 50% of the options. It’s like in a trial: “please answer: Yes or No”.  Remember, let’s try to keep it simple.

So, here we go with seven pairs of categories I will try to fill in, with information from the WB web itself:

a) CAUSE / EFFECT:

When you decide to act, you can either focus on the causes or on the effects.  I start with these categories because to me, it’s at the beggining of a strategy. Will you try to change things from the origin or only fix the results? If you address the causes, you concentrate in few issues and once solved, you don’t have to care about the consequences, they’ve surely vanished by then. If you chase the effects, you’ll never make it. It’s a sure-fire way to get work for ever.

b) GENERALITIES / PARTICULARITIES:

When dealing with complex issues, you can go from a broad angle to more specific issues, or the other way round. If you start from the details, it’s ok, you get a very deep view of things, takes a lot of time, you have a more solid base to stand on, and sounds definitely serious. But, in an ever-changing world, when you finished gathering and analyzing all the data, the premises have already changed and you have to start again. In order to move slow, and get into a never-ending process, the detailed approach is utterly suitable.

c) TOP-DOWN / DOWN-TOP:

It’s very idealistic to think that changes are driven in a down-top direction, but let’s be honest, it is easier to come to an agreement in actions to be taken, between a few than between hundreds of millions of people. Therefore, the main direction of how changes have to be implemented come from the “head”. Is the World Bank closer to the “Head” or to the “Body”? It also says from itself “We are not a bank in the common sense…”. Sounds nice, but in the end, it gives loans, it is structured as a bank, only it doesn’t have branches. It also holds annual meetings together with the IMF and World Bank Group. It’s Headquarters are placed in Washington DC.

d) INFLOW / OUTCOME:

What is the inflow that feeds the WB? Basically, statistics from the poorer countries in the world. They focus on diseases, hunger, poverty, daily income, etc. Bang! There you are the problems to solve. One by one, raising funds, giving loans, credits and then following results. What is the outcome then? A hard struggle against terrible problems affecting the most exposed population in the world. This sounds amazing, but it’s absolutely missing the point. María Teresa of Calcuta did this, but only because she was a person, not a bank. She dedicated her life to alleviate the people of the developing countries, not getting countries out of structural poverty. Therefore, we have a world organization making the same job than an individual. Waste of resources, ain’t it?

e) STRUCTURE / SKIN:

The WB looks like an NGO, has the appearance of a benevolent and humanistic organization. Its’ mission is laudable. But its’ members institutions through member countries, are:

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)  187
 The International Development Association (IDA)  170
 The International Finance Corporation (IFC)  182
 The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)  175
 The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)  146

Although it defines itself “like a cooperative”, it certainly has a orgchart and operations as a private corporation.  It declares not to run for profit, but that’s an assumption from the start. It’s a financial organization actually.

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTABOUTUS/0,,contentMDK:20103838~menuPK:1697023~pagePK:51123644~piPK:329829~theSitePK:29708,00.html

From the 25 Executive Directors that carry out day-to-day issues, five countries have one E.D. each (France, Germany, USA, UK and Japan. That leaves the 20 remaining E.D. for the rest of 182 countries. Now it is crucial to dig a bit deeper, to find out what impact have on the decisions, those countries which are supposed to be the target of  the WB “mission”.

f) COMPLEX / SIMPLE:

It’s not easy to get a quick idea of how the WB is organized, and linked to other financial groups and organizations. As Napoleon once said: “… if you want something NOT to be done, entrust it to a committee”.

g) INNOVATION / STATUS QUO:

What drives innovation? Money. It’s plain. The most innovative sectors are those in which the ROI is considerably higher. So what is the ROI of assisting developing countries? None. The way it’s structured, there is no return. It’s all non-recoverable funds. It’s praiseworthy, it’s very desirable, but it’s not an investment. It’s pure and simple Charity. And we know that Charity only helps people to get by, but not to shift to another level of  quality of life.

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