Is the World Bank too driven by US interests?

With Robert Zoellick stepping down from his leadership of the World Bank, developing nations are lobbying for the Bank to adopt a new direction by naming a non-US candidate to replace Zoellick. Whether their counsel is heeded or not, some are making the case for the Bank to reevaluate its goals and agenda.

Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs argues that the US has influenced the Bank’s agenda to fit American commercial and political interests and that this policy is “backfiring” on the US.

The World Bank is set to vote on a new president at its meeting in April.

Sachs, who is also Special Adviser to United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, writes that projects have “catered to US corporate interests rather than to sustainable development,” which have exacerbated, rather than solved global problems.

“For too long, the Bank’s leadership has imposed US concepts that are often utterly inappropriate for the poorest countries and their poorest people. For example, the Bank completely fumbled the exploding pandemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria during the 1990’s, failing to get help to where it was needed to curb these outbreaks and save millions of lives,” Sachs claims.

However, Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry argues in a Washington Times column that US leadership is critical, particularly during this period of change.

“Those at home who are tempted to look inward and turn their backs on American leadership would do well to remember the change the World Bank as rendered in remaking the world we live in today. In the decades since its founding, the bank has extended some $750 billion in financing for more than 11,000 projects in 168 countries. . . . . . Moreover, in large measure because of Mr. Zoellick’s vision, passion and creativity, he will leave his successor with a bank that is smarter, more inclusive, financially stronger and more legitimate in the eyes of its shareholders and borrowers. If we are to build on that legacy, we must choose his successor with care,” asserts Kerry.

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