World Bank Preside Jim Yong Kim, along with World Bank Director of Communications Richard MIlls, Development Community chairman Marek Belka, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, holds a news conference Oct. 12. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

This year’s World Bank annual meetings are expected to be about more than business as usual.

At least that’s what President Jim Yong Kim hopes as he makes the case for the bank’s board of governors to approve sweeping reforms to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 and foster inclusive growth.

Devex will be covering the meetings live from Washington. Stay tuned to this page as we continuously update it throughout the week with the latest news, buzz and behind-the-scenes information. Follow our team of reporters on Twitter via @devex, and chime in using the hashtags #globaldev and #WBlive.

OCT. 12

OCT. 10

9:30 AM

In his annual meetings plenary this morning, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced the creation of a new “presidential delivery unit,” the first of its kind at an international development institution.

The unit will give Kim the chance to personally keep tabs on the bank’s delivery quality in key areas he identifies.

“I’ll be personally following all of them,” Kim said.

He pointed to three bank-wide initiatives that will allow bank programs to better reflect the “science of delivery,” one of the president’s pet concepts. The three benchmarks, said Kim, are:

1) Decrease administrative barriers. The bank will look to decrease the transaction time for its projects by one third.

2) ”Become a better listener.” For all projects with clear beneficiaries the bank will solicit feedback from those beneficiaries: “100 percent,” Kim said.

3) Help partners find out what the bank is doing, and where, to foster future collaborations. “We promise to add rich detail to our maps so anyone will know what we do,” Kim said.

In addition to the three benchmarks Kim promised to keep an eye on, the bank will also be increasing its commitment to fragile and conflict-affected states, advocating for a strong replenishment of the International Development Association, and working towards universal access to financial services through mobile and other approaches.

2:30 PM

Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, asserted this afternoon that much of India’s economic success has been overlooked by the international press.

“We have a public relations problem,” Rajan said.

Despite a recent economic slowdown, Rajan insisted that India’s fiscal house was in order. Sitting just two seats away from International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, he said in jest that there was “no chance we will go to the IMF in 5 years.”

11:30 AM

This morning’s panel on the post-2015 development goals — and potential solutions — was all about data: using evidence to allocate funding, using real-time data to monitor projects, and harnessing the power of big data for development.

The World Bank’s Chief Economist Kaushik Basu said he thought the bank’s new efforts to measure the incomes of the bottom 40 percent would be a game-changer, promoting inclusive growth. But Homi Kharas, a former bank economist, pointed out that many service delivery goals — in education, for example — are shifting from quantity to quality, and evidence will have to reflect that.

“Formal statistical systems aren’t geared up for that,” he said.

10:00 AM

What’s the story behind World Bank President Jim Kim’s ambitious reform plan, and especially the planned creation of “global practices”? A press conference provided more detail on the internal review (which Devex wrote about last month) that started it all.

According to a staff survey, World Bank employees spend only 1 percent of their time supporting other regions.

“So, in other words, it confirmed our fears that we were becoming six regional banks,” Kim said at a press conference. “In terms of culture, there was a sense that there was such a culture of fear and aversion to taking any risk that we were missing out on great opportunities. Again, this is straight from our staff.”

He added: “We are going through the most significant change in at least 17 years and maybe longer in the World Bank Group. We need to do it, and we are very determined to make sure that we complete the reform.”

Kim also called for generous replenishment of the International Development Association, calling it good value for money and “one of the most important funds in terms of what I think is going to be the next generation of funding for economic development, which is combining public moneys and official development assistance with private sector funding.”

OCT. 9

Devex spoke with the man who manages the reorganization efforts at the bank and shared with us the next steps in the process.

Meanwhile, some observers are floating names of candidates who could fill the new position of vice president of global practices. Who’s in the running?

Check out our exclusive feature by Devex Global Development Reporter Michael Igoe.

3:00 PMThis year, the World Bank is asking member countries to replenish its fund for the poorest people on the planet, the International Development Association. And this afternoon, at the bank’s annual meetings, attendees addressed a number of concerns about IDA funding. At an afternoon panel, opinions ran the gamut on what IDA should focus on, from fragile states to gender inequality and climate change.

In a time of fiscal austerity, replenishment’s a tough ask, so IDA is trying to figure out how to do more with less (or preferably the same). Sam Worthington, president of InterAction, warned against organizations turning against each other in the fight for funding.

“We have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the bank on IDA replenishment,” he said.

12:30 PMWorld Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced the bank’s new interim target to reduce global poverty to 9 percent in 2020. It would mark the first time for the rate to fall into the single digits, and represent a major milestone toward Kim’s declared goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.

Oxfam welcomed the pronouncement but reminded the bank to ensure “ambitious actions” match the ambitious target.

“In order for these efforts to reach the poor in small and populous countries alike and ensure advancement towards this target across the board, the World Bank must report progress in each individual country,” said Oxfam spokesperson Raymond C. Offenheiser. 

12:00 NOONDevex caught up with one of the stars of World Bank President Jim Kim’s new leadership team: Sanjay Pradhan, vice president for change, knowledge and learning. We asked him about one of the centerpieces of Kim’s reform plan, the system of “global practices” that are meant to be created within the next year.

“In order to achieve the goals of ending poverty faster and boosting shared prosperity, we are doing three things,” Pradhan said. “We are trying to help countries focus on the most important challenges to eradicating poverty. Then, we are trying to marshal the whole combined expertise, knowledge and resources of the World Bank Group across regions, across sectors. And that’s when the global practices exercise comes in, because we have fragmented ourselves, but our clients need the whole might of the World Bank — public, private, cross-regional — all this innovation data that we need. 

Asked what the next step on the road of reform will be, Pradhan said: “We’re trying to create systems so we can mobilize [combined expertise], we’re trying to marshal partnerships with others, because we need partners like Facebook and others to actually reach a much broader audience. So the next steps really, right now are creating these global practices where we integrate across regions and sectors and across the World Bank group so we bring the best to the country clients.”

Read our analysis of the “global practices” system, and how it may affect World Bank staff and partners, here.

11:30 AMAn amplifier, an accelerator, a “leap frogger.” Those were the nouns used to describe the potential for communications technology to alleviate poverty at a panel this morning, which was full of big ideas, but sometimes lacking in operational specifics.

Sanjay Pradhan, the World Bank’s vice president for change, knowledge and learning, said that the bank wants to use information technology for better knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation and to build real-time feedback into projects. Technology can empower the poor, he said, giving them voice to say whether they are receiving services and ability for the bank to “listen at scale.”

Marne Levine, Facebook’s vice president for global public policy, plugged Facebook’s project, which aims to get the 5 billion people in the world who don’t have Internet connections online. She said the organization was looking for NGO partners to help them decrease data costs and increase connectivity.

9:30 AMCNN’s Richard Quest challenged Jim Kim on his World Bank reform plan, calling it a collection of management-speak buzzwords. But Kim held firm on the strategy and the necessity for a new direction for the bank. Many of the themes of that strategy have become familiar from Kim’s recent speeches: sharing knowledge across the bank, eliminating what he called “little, mosquito-bite projects” that don’t solve fundamental problems, and working more with private sector partners.

Kim confirmed that the bank was shooting to cut $400 million from its budget “at a minimum” and said that staff cutbacks would have to be a part of that cut. But he said the bank had “no plans of cutting back” on development. “We’ve made it clear we want to be a bigger bank,” Kim said. He also announced an interim goal for the bank of halving global poverty from 18 percent to 9 percent by 2020 on the way to achieving the ultimate goal of three percent by 2030. He promised to hold himself personally accountable for that goal, and Quest dubbed him “Mr. Nine Percent.”

OCT. 8

A centerpiece of World Bank President Jim Kim’s reform strategy is the creation of “global practices.” Information about them has been sparse — until now.

The global practices system is meant to be implemented by July 1 next year, Devex Global Development Reporter Michael Igoe has learned. What are these global practices, what cross-cutting issues does Kim want to focus on, and how might this all affect the World Bank Group’s various institutions and their partners?

Check out our exclusive analysis of one of the most highly anticipated World Bank reform plans.

5:00 PMLabor union, NGO and other civil society representatives discussed the World Bank’s approach to small businesses this afternoon with experts from the bank. While the group agreed that small enterprises are critical to job growth and poverty reduction in the developing world, there was a lively debate about the best ways to encourage and enable these enterprises.

While systemic reforms to regulation were lauded in general, the bank’s Doing Business Report had few vocal defenders. Several labor reps voiced concern that the World Bank’s slogan of “informal is normal” to describe developing economies showed an attitude of resignation to formalizing employment and encouraging social protections.

Other participants complained of a lack of a unified strategy from the bank.

“It’s not that we don’t have a strategy, it’s that the pieces of the strategy might not be ideal,” said Rogerio Studart, an alternate executive director at the bank, pointing to the issues of infrastructure, human capital, and access to markets that help or hinder small businesses. An evaluation by the bank of its small business interventions is forthcoming.

12:15 PMRachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, reveals that the bank has launched an initiative to improve the creditworthiness of cities in the developing world. According to Kyte, only 4 percent of the 500 largest developing country cities are creditworthy in international financial markets. 

11:30 AMAt a seminar with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, World Bank President Jim Kim says that sustainable energy, cities and agriculture are priorities for the bank’s climate change portfolio. The bank’s research had previously asserted that cities play an instrumental role in responding to climate change. Kim added that the purpose of the World Bank’s reform agenda — the subject of much Devex coverage recently — is to better leverage knowledge and innovation across the bank’s lending worldwide.

10:00 AMConcerns over the U.S. debt ceiling debate dominate this morning’s IMF press conference. IMF economic counsellor Olivier Blanchard warns that failure to lift the U.S. debt ceiling would almost certainly derail economic recovery and could potentially disrupt global financial markets.

OCT. 7

The World Bank will announce $400 million in budget cuts later this week, according to a report from Reuters. Bertrand Badre, the banks chief financial officer, told the news agency on Monday that the cuts will be spread over 3 years and represent an 8 percent cut in the bank’s annual spending.

While many have expected shifts in budget priorities and potential cuts as a part of the bank’s planned overhaul, this is the first time that numbers have been publicly discussed. Badre gave few specifics about potential targets of cuts, citing only travel, real estate and information technologies as good places to start. Badre said the bank would be looking for other sources of income, besides the contributions of member countries, that may boost funds for development.

The budget cuts are in line with World Bank President Jim Kim’s calls for a bolder, leaner, more flexible institution that is focused on “transformational” projects.

Such changes are much-needed according to a Washington Post analysis which suggested that much of the bank’s post-financial crisis lending was poorly spent. The post wrote:


5 things to watch out for at the World Bank annual meetings

The World Bank annual meetings come at a transition time for the international development institution. We’re looking for hints as to how those changes will take place, and whether they will help the bank eradicate extreme poverty.

For the World Bank, it’s time to take risks

Things are getting risky at the World Bank. While details on the “smart risks” the bank wants to take to fight extreme poverty have been sparse, ideas are starting to emerge on a centerpiece of President Jim Yong Kim’s ambitious reform agenda.

Follow Devex on Twitter and Facebook, bookmark to this page to access more live coverage of the World Bank annual meetings, and check out more World Bank news, projects and jobs.

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