World Bank Follies: Deeper than Wolfowitz's Pants


In yesterday's Washington Post, international development aid critic William Easterly, author of The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, takes on the Wolfowitz kerfuffle and point out the problems with the World Bank go way deeper than Wolfowitz's pants:

Just as Wolfowitz arrived at the bank in 2005, it produced a report on "Lessons of the 1990s." The lessons were that the bank did not know which lessons to teach; the report showed that countries that had ignored bank dogma (China, Vietnam, India) were thriving, while those under bank tutelage (Russia, Argentina, Zambia) did poorly.

Wolfowitz also continued a disastrous trend begun by Wolfensohn, whose answer to every bank failure to meet a goal was to add three new goals. The pair have supplemented the bank's original objective—promoting economic growth—with everything from securing children's rights to promoting world peace. In so doing, they've sacrificed clarity of direction for ludicrously infeasible but PR-friendly slogans like "empowering the poor" and "attaining the Millennium Development Goals" (which cover every last ounce of human suffering).

I wrote an account of another international do-gooder org, the World Health Organization, similarly falling afoul of mission creep while failing at its core values back in January 2002.