Comments on Ravi Kanbur’s resignation

11 August 2000

“The tussle about what the WDR should and should not emphasize demonstrates that there are forces inside and outside the World Bank hostile to even a modest modification of the dominant paradigm on development. The Bank may want to signal that it is turning into a caring organization but, like a leopard and its spots, it cannot change even if it wants to.”

The Hindu, 26 June, 2000

“Everyone is shocked and deeply saddened that Ravi left. Many of us see this as a real blow to the empowerment agenda; and if I’ve learned anything from my work it’s about the powerlessness of being poor.”

World Bank source

“Ravi Kanbur has recently decided to leave his position as Staff Director of the World Development Report “Attacking Poverty.” Ravi’s decision is a source of regret for the Report’s team, for colleagues in the Bank and for many people outside the Bank who have been working on the WDR. In leaving Ravi said he had some reservations on the emphasis of the main messages that were likely to emerge in the final version of the Report. We believe these reservations to be unfounded.”

Jo Ritzen, Vice President, Development Economics, World Bank

“The Washington Consensus has emerged from the Asia Crisis with its faith in free markets only slightly shaken. Poverty eradication is now the menu, but the main dish is still growth and market liberalisation, with social safety nets added as a side dish, and social capital scattered over it as a relish. The overall implication of the resignation is fairly clear. The US does not want the World Bank to stray too far from its agenda of economic growth and market liberalisation. Ravi Kanbur’s draft has raised a few too many doubts about this agenda, and strayed too much towards politics.”

The Nation, Bangkok, 5 July, 2000

“To keep the Bank afloat Wolfensohn has to steer between two major constituencies. The first are the critics, the second is the US Treasury. You don’t need to be a World Bank economist to do the cost benefit analysis. To save the Bank, and his own reputation, it is essential that the Bank’s policies and public pronouncements do not err too far from its main shareholder and political protector, the US Treasury.”

Focus on Trade, Number 51, June 2000

“A rare individual has the courage to resign, but what about the thousands who don’t? We need to question all reports and documents and data coming from the World Bank which the media and others use as their source of truth about the South. This is the tip of the iceberg of the reports that are produced under such intense politicization”

Michael Goldman, editor Privatising Nature, Political Struggles for the Global Commons

“At the World Bank, the high church of development economics, a widening schism over how to fight poverty is sending ripples around the world. Ravi Kanbur, a top Cornell economist and the man hired by the bank to oversee the writing of its World Development Report, resigned in anger recently when he was ordered to rewrite his staff’s draft. The report is extremely influential among economists, and Mr. Kanbur’s version questioned how well developing countries adapt to capitalism. In fact, it questioned whether the West’s standard prescription for reform does enough to help the poor.”

Joseph Kahn, New York Times, 25 June, 2000