World Bank must rethink, refocus and re-invent

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We now face a world with increasing number of countries joining the ranks of middle income countries and a number of them becoming emerging economics, the BRICS. Education levels have increased in many countries, aspirations of people have increased, countries are able to afford to fund many of their development activities, technology introduced in the west are quickly adopted by millions in the developing world, and the new economies are pushing for more trade and investment. Many countries, especially in the Middle East, are pursuing democratic governance and advocating for greater citizens participation in their national development.

Therefore, it is time for the World Bank to rethink, refocus, and re-invent its work for next 50 years. What worked for last several decades will not work in the future. Technology is quickly changing how we work, where we work, and pace of information sharing. The World Bank work can be divided into two tracks.  One track can focus on those poor countries who need help to move into middle income category. These are countries such as Nepal, Myanmar, North Korea, Congo, Malawi, Sudan, Somalia, and others. And the second track would be for those new middle income countries to focus on consolidating their gains and accelerating economic activities to further their gains in economic development and integration with developed countries economies. These countries would need help in strengthening their public institutions, create more enabling environment for businesses to flourish, and allow citizens to participate in their local and national governments more effectively. Underpinning all these work is serious commitment to good governance. Zero tolerance for corruption and waste must be part and parcel of every investment decisions.


Time has come for the World Bank to re-evaluate its way of working where the length of time it takes to make investment decision is long and ineffective.  Faster decision making with simpler systems should become the norm. This would be difficult and challenging. It is very difficult to reset the button on systems and processes developed over  several decades. It is even more challenging to transform the talent pool to adopt some private sector approaches that you normally see in highly successful organisations. But these must be done and the time to reset the course is now. Technology and innovation should become the driving force to accelerate economic development. Universal  access to education and faster job creation combined with more agricultural productivity must be pursued to achieve its goal of poverty reduction.

Rahman is an international health consultant and has over 25 years experience working for donors and international organizations.