As an article pointed out the other day, the World Bank has been in a bind lately. First there was the Wolfowitz scandal, and now there is the fundamental raison d’être. You know I’m talking about fluffy world politics when I use terms like that. I’ll see if I can work "vis-à-vis" in here as well.
In his first three months on the job, World Bank President Robert Zoellick made peace with bank staff who helped force out his predecessor, Paul Wolfowitz. Next he has to figure out how to stop the bank from sliding into irrelevance, even if that means taking on its 10,000-strong army of technocrats.
The problem is that organizations like the World Bank are "sliding into irrelevance," and it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Even poor countries now have easy access to credit, and the bank – since World War II the world’s largest poverty-fighting institution – competes with what it estimates are 230 other poverty-fighting institutions run by billionaires, celebrities, non-profits, and individual nations.
Competing to give money to the less fortunate. Now there’s a concept! That’s just so sad… huh? So what does the World Bank plan to do?
Mr. Zoellick says the bank would like to become a kind of "general contractor’ that puts together aid programs involving other donors, but there’s scant evidence that other agencies are looking for such help.
There’s an existing model for such a makeover: the United Way. Obviously a different scale and a different demographic… sort of… the United Way is still a consolidator and redistributor of donations. How many of us have worked for companies that put incredible pressure on employees to donate to the annual United Way pledge drive? Some companies even measure managers by the participation rate of their employees.
This always rubbed me the wrong way, especially after the corruption scandals several years ago. I already give to several charities of my choice, and I resented being strong-armed (especially as a manager) to give to another organization. Especially an organization that would take a few percentage points off the top for administration fees, just to then send the remaining funds to… the charity of my choice. Middlemen are a waste. I want to see my money go as far as possible, which doesn’t include paying for someone that cashes my check and then writes another check… to the same place.
Zoellick is leading the World Bank down the path to middleman irrelevance.
One early victory came in his campaign to win pledges of as much as $30 billion from nations to fund the World Bank’s International Development Association.