IFI governance


Bank seeks balanced development strategies

15 March 1999

Bank President James Wolfensohn has announced a new initiative which aims to balance economic with non-economic analysis and enable real participation and transparency in drawing up country strategies. The Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF), building on the Bank’s Partnerships Initiative, aims to unite all donors around common objectives drawn up with civil society and government input.

Wolfensohn’s 31 page January memo to the Bank’s Board and staff calls for “a more inclusive picture of development”. Echoing World Bank and IMF critics, he says:

“cannot adopt a system in which the macroeconomic and financial is considered apart from the structural, social and human aspects, and vice-versa”.

Wolfensohn indicates that for the rest of his term in office he wants to put significant energy into promoting a new framework. He speaks of two sides of a balance sheet (or two parts of a duet) which would balance macroeconomic figures with long-term social, structural and environmental targets.

He sets out a “management matrix” with 14 columns setting out sectors such as good governance, social programmes, energy, environmental and cultural issues and private sector strategy, and five rows spelling out donor strategies in these areas. NGOs and officials have pointed out, however, that this proposal does not solve the problems that Wolfensohn has correctly identified:

  • the matrix does not include macro-economic data so cannot provide balance;
  • whilst the memo recognises the need for flexibility, the matrix separates issues into strange and overlapping categories which may prove mystifying to many and reinforce the tendency for sectoral, not holistic, planning;
  • representing donor strategies in a tabular form may help build donor cooperation but will not necessarily lead to a good hearing being given to alternative approaches;
  • the Bolivia National Dialogue, the only example given of the framework in action, is wrongly portrayed as a model process.

Regardless of whether these comments, are taken on board as the framework progresses, there are some interesting implications for the Bank which NGOs and others should focus on.

Firstly, if the Bank is to develop a new balanced and facilitatory approach it will have to tone down its reports claiming to show that Bank economists have objectively determined what constitutes “a good policy environment” (see Selectivity story, p. 2).

Secondly the Bank will have to reconsider the role of its Country Assistance Strategies, the documents which many NGOs and donors have been working to access and improve.

Twelve countries, including Bolivia, have agreed to pilot the CDF. They will be evaluated after 12-18 months.

FWolfensohn’s memo is available on www.worldbank.org

Send your comments to cdf@worldbank.org

Please send copies to the Bretton Woods Project.