Foreword by Professor Deepak Lal
The best way for me to introduce this paper is by outlining how the World Bank (WB) turned into the Anti-Development Bank, as suggested by its title.
In the mid-to-late 1980s, I was the research administrator at the World Bank. Towards the end of my tenure, during the annual meetings between the bank and the International Monetary Fund, green activists were abseiling down the bank’s Washington headquarters protesting against its purportedly anti-green activities. This pressure seemed an emergent threat to the bank’s mission to alleviate poverty through efficient growth and so, with the support of the Vice President for Economics and Research, Anne Krueger, I responded by proposing a World Development Report on the environment, now the WB’s flagship publication.
The report was published in 1993, well after I had left the bank. The authors included two of my former colleagues at University College London, Wilfrid Beckerman and David Pearce. It was a balanced report which, as the WB’s president Lewis Preston said in his foreword, argued for
“. . .a careful assessment of the costs and benefits of alternative policies, taking account of uncertainties and irreversibilities that maybe associated with ecological processes. Some would prefer a more absolute approach to protection, but for policy-makers with scarce resources seeking to raise the well-being of their citizens in an environmentally responsible manner, it is essential that tradeoffs be clarified in a rational manner and cost-effective policies designed.”
This paper shows in detail how this injunction is no longer adhered to by the current WB President Dr Jim Young Kim. He has overruled the cost–benefit estimates of the superiority of coal-based over solar- and wind-based power generation produced by his own economic staff, justifying this by reference to a wish to cut global emissions of greenhouse gases. In 2013 the bank adopted anti-coal funding policies, which, as the paper shows, prioritises the green environmental agenda over its core developmental mission of poverty reduction.
How has this come to pass? The turning point came when, in the mid 1990s, with the opening up of world capital markets to most developing countries outside Africa, the bank had three choices, as noted by Anne Krueger:
• to downsize and concentrate only on the countries that are truly poor, and phase out activities in middle income countries
• continue to operate in all countries, focusing on the ‘soft issues’ of development, such as the environment, women’s rights, labour rights and the encouragement of NGOs
• to shut down.
The new President James Wolfensohn chose the second option. I argued in my Reviving the Invisible Hand for the third. The arguments of this paper provide further support for my position.
I commend this paper to all those who are sincerely concerned with alleviating poverty – particularly in Africa, since China and India no longer need World Bank money or advice – and who are not seduced by the siren voices of the eco-fundamentalists.
Deepak Lal is a British development economist of Indian origin who has held academic posts at Oxford, University College London and the University of California. He was a member of the Indian Foreign Service and a former Research Administrator at the World Bank. He is currently James S. Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at UCLA. He is a member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.