By Celia W. Dugger
The World Bank, the premier financier of anti-poverty programs in
developing countries, has too often failed to tackle effectively the
deprivation in the African countryside, home to most of the continent’s
poor people, the bank’s internal evaluation office said in a report.
The bank’s strategy in Senegal, for example, favors cities, while in
Malawi the bank neglects efforts to help the rural poor improve
productivity on and off the farm, according to the report released
Thursday. The evaluation team found that in about half the 48 countries
it studied across the developing world, the bank’s aid to rural areas
produced disappointing results.
The bank’s managers, in a written response in the report, said they
shared the team’s concerns and had strengthened the focus on rural
poverty and increased lending for rural development in recent years.
The evaluation team’s critique was part of a broad assessment of the
bank’s performance that concluded that it tended to spread itself too
thin, underestimate resistance to its efforts to combat corruption and
patronage and pay too little attention to ensuring that economic growth
improved the lot of the poor.
The Independent Evaluation Group, which produced the report, answers
to the bank’s board, not to its president, Paul Wolfowitz, or its
The report, its annual review, laid out arresting examples of the
bank’s shortcomings. As the bank has sought to increase access to
education in poor countries, the report says, it has paid too little
attention to learning outcomes. In Uganda, for example, attendance has
soared since the country made primary education free in 1996. But now,
94 children are in each classroom, and three students share each
Vikram Nehru, speaking for the bank’s management, replied that the
bank had tried to reach both goals. "We ourselves are not satisfied
with the improvements in quality, not that we haven’t tried," he said.
Education has been a priority for Wolfowitz, the Bush
administration’s choice to lead the bank, but he is even more
identified with fighting corruption in the developing world.
The evaluation team found that though the bank had encouraged
countries to adopt anti-corruption laws and had helped finance agencies
to carry them out, the agencies often had little enforcement capability.