How much time for World Bank reform?

World Bank Group President Jim Kim meets with members of the World Bank / IMF Development Committee in April 2013. Kim's push to overhaul the institution continues to spark debate within the international development community. Photo by: Ryan Rayburn / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

A recent Devex feature about World Bank reform continues to circulate within the bank and spark debate among our readers.

Some of the comments we’ve received come from World Bank employees past and present, and they shed some light on the conversations ongoing inside the walls of one of the world’s largest development institutions.

Some readers have argued that calls for reform cycle in and out of fashion with each new bank chief. Paul Cadario, an outspoken former World Bank vice president who was also quoted in our initial article, suggested: “This time is different, with the need to deal with strategy, budget, management and staff skills at the same time, and not be constrained by unrealistic deadlines.”

President Jim Kim’s push for broad-based change might be successful if it is given enough time, Cadario argues, pointing to another reform Kim oversaw at the World Health Organization in the mid-2000s.

At WHO, Kim implemented the “3x5 Initiative,” an effort to put 3 million people on AIDS treatment in developing countries by 2005. That goal was met two years late, Cadario said, and perhaps similar patience will be required if World Bank reform is to meet similar success.

In response to Cadario’s call for realistic deadlines, Abdo Yazbeck, lead health economist at the World Bank, expressed a sentiment that others at the bank have echoed: So far, what has been billed a major reform effort is still missing its big opening act.

“It is getting frustrating,” Yazbeck wrote. “We neither have the architecture nor the engineering plans. Somebody has to make a few decisions and let us work on them.”

Those decisions are surely in the works right now, and may be presented in October at the bank’s annual meeting in Washington. The debate about the World Bank’s future will surely continue in the meantime.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.