Want a World Bank promotion? Prepare a commercially viable project.

World Bank President Jim Kim. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

World Bank President Jim Kim wants his institution to get out of the business of financing projects that private sector investors could do on their own, and into the business of rewarding staff who prepare commercially viable projects.

Speaking Thursday at a Spring Meetings event on “creating markets” — which alludes to the bank’s recent emphasis on driving investment opportunities to low-income places, instead of waiting for investment opportunities to materialize — Kim described the internal culture change this would require of the bank.

Kim said, “the one thing that will convince me that we’ve changed” is a shift in the culture of rewards and incentives around project preparation at the World Bank.

“Inside the World Bank now, if you do so well that it begins to look commercially viable, the incentives are aligned so that you quickly get it through the board and get your credit for having got that loan out the door,” Kim said.

“What we’re looking for is for us to be able to say, my goodness, if you’ve taken an idea and turned it into a bankable project [that was not previously] commercially viable, you get all the points that you could possibly get, we celebrate your achievement, and you’re going to be in line for a promotion,” he said.

Kim added: “It doesn’t work like that right now, but we absolutely know that that’s what we have to do if we’re going to have a chance of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals … Unless we’re able to change our own culture and move in the direction of facilitating much more investment in developing countries, we won’t get there.”

Update April 21, 2017: A World Bank spokesperson contacted Devex to clarify President Kim's statement. Kim intended to say, "a bankable project that was not previously commercially viable." The article has been changed to reflect this clarification.

Devex is on the ground at the World Bank Spring Meetings April 18-22. Read our daily coverage and analysis and tune in for our Facebook Live series. Follow @devex, @Sophie_Ed1984 and @AlterIgoe for their live reporting.

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.