Covering Globalization: A Handbook for Reporters

By Anya Schiffrin; Amer Bisat | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR
COVERING THE
WORLD BANK

ABID ASLAM


ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE?

JOURNALSTS HAVE long covered the World Bank in its many guises: lending institution, development agency, think-tank, forum for intergovernmental politics and economic diplomacy, bureaucracy, and employer of 10,000 people.

The bank was founded in 1944 to lend money to governments seeking to rebuild their economies after World War II. By the 1960s, it had redefined itself as an institution dedicated to fighting world poverty. Today, it lends and guarantees around $20 billion per year in near-market-rate yioans and some &6 billion more in no-interest loans to borrowing countries in the developing world and the former Soviet Union. In turn, the bank’s loans help the borrowing countries mobilize other financing from governments, commercial banks, and private investors.

The bank’s policies and operations keep changing in response to pressure from member governments, activist groups, and some of its own staff. It continues to back the infrastructure projects—hydroelectric power plants, ports, and highways, for example—that once were its stock in trade. In the 1970s, however, the bank came to believe that the success of a project depended on the overall policy environment within which the project operated, among other things. As such, the institution began guiding governments on how to structure and manage their economies and social services, buttressing its advice with loans issued to finance implementation of its policy recommendations. This process, genetically called “structural adjustment,” has given way to so-called second-generation initiatives under which infrastructure, telecommunications, and some social

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