In an editorial, The Manila Times (Philippines) reflects on what James Wolfensohn accomplished in his 10-year presidency of the World Bank.
The daily writes that since its founding in 1945 as one of the Bretton Woods institutions, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development has not strayed very far from its goal: to help raise standards of living in developing countries. But under the influence of a succession of strong-minded presidents it has interpreted this mission in different ways.
When Wolfensohn became president the credibility of the ideology-driven approach to development assistance had been eroded. Conditionality was even found to have undermined the basic purpose of the Bank. The World Bank’s purpose, Wolfensohn said at the beginning of his term, was to promote growth and to eradicate poverty in the Third World. The Bank acknowledged for the first time that there are many roads to development; that a one-size-fits-all approach does not work; that there are “gaps” that have to be closed for a country to develop in a self-sustaining way. Wolfensohn called it a Comprehensive Development Framework.
It was Wolfensohn who underlined the debilitating effect of corruption on a country’s ability to grow and to eliminate poverty. The studies in corruption of the World Bank are among the most pragmatic that any agency has produced. Wolfensohn, in our view, made the World Bank an equal partner of developing countries in devising national strategies for growth and poverty alleviation. Under his influence, the World Bank ceased to be an ideological instrument of rich countries. This is a legacy that his successor should build on.