Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite having made great progress since independence in 1971. Christine Wallich heads the World Bank office in the country.
Bangladesh has seen considerable growth since trade liberalisation and public sector reform. "Bangladesh has liberalized its trade regime since the mid-1980s, and its economic performance improved substantially during the 1990s, driven by rapid growth of exports. With the creation of two million jobs in the garment industry and millions more in linkage activities, there is ample proof that more trade has indeed been good for growth and poverty reduction in Bangladesh", said Christine.
Creating a stable fiscal environment is the central pillar of the World Bank’s work in the country. "Bangladesh has paid a very high price for its poor political and economic governance, criminalized law and order, institutionalized corruption, weak financial institutions, and poorly managed infrastructure", Christine explained. "Law and order has been the number one message in PRSP consultations thus far. Criminalized politics threaten the rule of law and undermine democratic institutions, transparency, and accountability. Poor law and order is also a major drain on the economy". In terms of human development, enhancing education and health services are a priority, and the World Bank coordinates with the Government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in this. "About a third of our support will continue to be for projects in health and education". Christine said, "The Government and NGOs’ efforts are complementary, in pursuing common goals of poverty alleviation and empowerment of people. These efforts can be strengthened even further to penetrate deeper into society".
A US citizen, Christine studied in the US, Germany and at Cambridge University in the UK. She gained a PhD in Economics from Yale University, a Chartered Financial Analyst's licence (CFA), and attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. She speaks Spanish, German and some French and has published several books and articles on macro-policy, public finance and fiscal decentralization, financial sector reform, international capital markets and private sector development, and post-conflict reconstruction.
Christine joined the World Bank in 1977 after leaving Yale University and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America. Prior to assuming her current position she served as Operations Policy Vice President and prior to that as the World Bank's first Country Director for Bosnia-Herzegovina in the post-conflict situation, acting as Director for the Balkans until 1997, and Director of the Bank's Corporate Strategy Department until 1999. She has also been seconded to the Asian Development Bank, where she held a joint appointment as Director of the Infrastructure, Energy and Finance Department, and Head of ADB's Private Sector Group.
In the future, Christine says the World Bank will continue to support the reform process in Bangladesh. "Bangladesh's recent macroeconomic and policy reforms are bearing fruit, with visible results in terms of higher growth and social progress. Maintaining momentum on reforms, strengthening the state and its institutions, and removing constraints to growth – from infrastructure and the weak business environment - will be key. The World Bank stands ready to support these reforms, and to deepen its partnership with Bangladesh across a range of areas", she asserted.