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World Bank bullying must stop!

World Bank

Jim Yong KimThe World Bank has a new leader: Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert, who has the full backing of the United States.

But what does this mean for developing countries like the Philippines, which have been calling for reforms on the selection process of the Washington-based multilateral agency?

More importantly, will this appointment finally pave the way for reforms at the World Bank? Will developing countries finally, and genuinely, benefit from it?

For decades, since being conceived at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference which was aimed at helping Europe rebuild itself after the war, the World Bank has pushed developing countries to implement what were dubbed as anti-poverty financing schemes. For some countries, including the Philippines, these policies have meant implementing new taxes and incurring more development loans.

Many years ago, I remember the World Bank and the IMF specifically urging the Philippine government to slap higher value-added taxes (VAT) on goods and services to boost state coffers. That policy remains in effect up to this day.

But really, how has the World Bank helped developing countries like the Philippines – other than imposing the policies of the West?

It is high time that the spotlight shifted to the emerging economies of Africa, Asia and Latin America. For decades, these economies have been mired in poverty. And this situation remains a stark reality.

Indeed, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund’s policies are not dubbed oppressive by developing countries for no reason.

Its new boss should lead the institution in crafting out policies that would genuinely help poor nations get out of poverty, instead of burying them deeper in debt. No more bullying, please.

Jim Yong Kim is a health expert who is credited for a World Health Organization initiative that successfully treated millions of AIDS patients in 2005. Developing economies such as South Africa were initially rooting for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance who has worked many years as an economist at the World Bank. However, she backed out of the race at the last minute.

US President Barack Obama had previously endorsed 52-year-old Kim. The Philippines moved away from the pack of its peers in the developing world and also endorsed the US nominee.

Now, the verdict is in. Kim is the new World Bank chief. It is a position than can make a difference in a world of more than seven billion people.

Developing countries are waiting for these changes. Some can’t wait to create an alternative institution, but as reality shows, the West just won’t allow that to happen. For now, here in the developing world, we will wait with bated breath to see what Kim can achieve.

Whether or not this change will lead to better lives for the world’s population is still anybody’s guess.

Photo: National Institute of Health / Wikimedia Commons

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