ISTANBUL – The World Bank is pursuing an ambitious program of reform to enable the institution to become more efficient and effective while also gaining more legitimacy among the developing countries that it serves, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said.
In a speech at the start of the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Istanbul, Turkey, Zoellick said the World Bank’s reforms would focus on improving development effectiveness, promoting accountability and good governance, and continuing to increase cost efficiency.
“To serve the changing global economy, the world needs agile, nimble, competent, and accountable institutions,” Zoellick told the meeting of the Board of Governors of the World Bank Group.
“The World Bank Group will improve its legitimacy, efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability, and further expand its cooperation with the UN, the IMF, the other Multilateral Development Banks, donors, civil society, and foundations which have become increasingly important development actors.”
Zoellick noted that when the World Bank was established in 1944, the world was different from today.
The institution was formed by 44 countries whereas its membership today stood at 186. The developing countries of today were mostly still colonies.
This system had long passed and the political economy of the 21st century demanded a changed order that reflected the growing role of developing countries. They were now a source of potential economic growth that could lead to a more balanced world economy.
“If developing countries are part of the solution, they must also be part of the conversation.
The international system needs a World Bank Group that represents the international economic realities of the 21st Century, recognizes the role and responsibility of growing stakeholders, and provides a larger voice for Africa,” Zoellick said.
The World Bank’s shareholders supported reforms that would give developing countries at least 47 percent of the voting shares in the institution. Zoellick said shareholders should go beyond this to achieve a 50 percent share for developing countries.
Reform was inevitable as the world was changing so quickly, Zoellick said.
“The old international economic order was struggling to keep up with change before the crisis. Today’s upheaval has revealed the stark gaps and compelling needs. It is time we caught up and moved ahead.”
The High Level Commission chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, which Zoellick set up last year to look at more far reaching reforms of World Bank governance, is expected to submit its report later this month.