Defending the World Bank

Article excerpt


In "Utopian planners are always wrong," Ernest Lefever reviews William Easterly's book titled "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done so Much Ill and so Little Good" (Books, Sunday). Mr. Lefever finds himself in agreement with Mr. Easterly that the World Bank and other international bodies have been pursuing development in the wrong way for the past 60 years.

The review presumably reflects Mr. Easterly's tendency to concentrate on the failures of the West to solve the AIDS problem and to help people in the brutal dictatorships of sub-Saharan Africa. But this is a very narrow view of the past performance of the World Bank and other international banks.

The bank was set up in 1947 to help rebuild infrastructure in the countries shattered by World War II, such as Holland, France, and Japan. For many years, the World Bank was the only source of financing available on reasonable terms for the roads, ports, irrigation, and public utilities desperately needed by the developing countries to modernize their economies.

The early growth of economic and social success stories such as Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia and Thailand was financed by World Bank loans which, incidentally, have all been repaid. …