Afsaneh at the Center for Global Development

The Future of the World Bank Under the Next President

On Thursday, April 11, the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Bretton Woods Committee hosted a panel discussion on “The Future of the World Bank Under the Next President.” The event was held at the headquarters of CGD in Washington, DC.

The discussion, held on the sidelines of the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings, explored which issues should be at the top of the agenda of David Malpass, the new President of the World Bank. Panelists talked about what advice they would give to Malpass with respect to managing the World Bank, making its operations more efficient, improving its development impact, and responding to changes in the economies of the developing world.

Host speakers for the event were Masood Ahmed, President of the Center for Global Development, and William R. Rhodes, Advisory Council Member of the Bretton Woods Committee.

Panelists were: Afsaneh Beschloss, Founder and CEO of RockCreek; Lawrence H. Summers, Charles W. Eliot Professor of Harvard University and Chairman of the Board, Center for Global Development; Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Minister of Finance for Indonesia; and Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. The moderator was Josh Zumbrun, reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Afsaneh Beschloss and Larry Summers at the Center for Global Development Event, "The Future of the World Bank Under the Next President."

In the hour-long discussion, the panelists discussed a broad spectrum of issues ranging from what the World Bank president should do in his first 100 days (do not reorganize; do not badmouth the institution) to challenges at the center of the World Bank’s business model (embedded subsidies in the pricing of its loans; the extent of lending in China and other higher-income countries). The panelists agreed that the World Bank has a unique, powerful role in addressing global public goods such as climate change, but that it could much more to sharpen and articulate its comparative advantages relative to other development institutions.

Beschloss urged the new President to invest time in, among other things, learning about the history of the World Bank, citing as an example its indispensable role in developing the bullet train system in Japan. “I would say that the World Bank is even more relevant today as compared to its past because of a lot of lessons learned.”

In discussing the shift from country-specific programs to global public goods, Beschloss referenced how the IMF, amid the Global Financial Crisis in 2007, expanded its role from bilateral lending to providing swap lines around the world, which contributed to global economic stability. “So what is the equivalent of that for the World Bank? What is the World Bank doing on global public goods which is truly global – it’s not just for emerging markets?”

Beschloss said that the World Bank needs to work to ensure its balance sheet and accounting is less opaque. “Have a clean, clear budget because everything we are talking about has to be measured, and you cannot measure unless you know how much you are spending and what you are doing with it.”

Last but not least, she said, the new President should “work with the young people” among the World Bank staff and the staffs of the shareholders. Given their facility with information technology and internalization of the Sustainable Development Goals, she said, “that corps of young people has to be brought up.”

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