Britain to argue for radical reform of World Bank

By staff writers
February 23, 2009

UK government development secretary Douglas Alexander is set to unveil a British plan for radical reforms to the World Bank, aimed at making it focus on tackling poverty more effectively.

In a speech he will make at the think-tank Chatham House on Tuesday 24 February 2009, Mr Alexander will criticise the World Bank's record - a long-term bugbear for many anti-poverty NGOs - and will urge it to provide "more, faster and better funding" to help vulnerable people in the world's poorest countries.

The World Bank is the 'soft loans' affiliate of the international financial institutions established in the aftermath of the post-war Bretton Woods agreements.

The UK development secretary, who has made a point of talking to aid and church agencies on global issues, believes it is possible to use the political leverage created by the worldwide credit crunch to bring change.

A recent World Bank report acknowledged that it put too many conditions on loans to developing countries, that it had often failed to act rapidly enough, and that there were major tensions with the International Monetary Fund - which has also come under attack for trying to 'balance the books' at the expense of the poor.

Both the IMF and the World Bank are presently dominated by the United States, which appoints their presidents.

Wider structures of ownership, as well as more humanitarian-oriented policies, are being argued for by development activists.

Mr Alexander says that the latest World Bank report amounts to an "indictment" of its failures.

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