Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Learn about the World Bank

With all the discussion in the news recently about the World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, I thought it might be time to discuss what the World Bank does. (For the report on Wolfowitz's actions in regards to a pay raise for his girlfriend, check out the report of the Ad Hoc group who investigated the actions.)

The World Bank is not a bank in the traditional sense of the word. They are a source of financial assistance to developing countries, but it is actually an international organization made up of two organizations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA).

The IBRD focuses its efforts on middle-income and credit worthy poorer countries by providing "loans, guarantees, risk management products, and analytical and advisory services." The IDA focuses on the world's poorest countries by providing "interest-free loans and grants."

Many people have asked whether the World Bank has been effective in helping these countries. The World Bank is actually concerned with this and has commissioned numerous independent evaluations of its efforts, some of which you can find on their web site.

Want to check out some of the products of this work? You can find freely available online some publications, data and research. For those of you interested in finding out what they do in a particular country, check out their countries pages.

For those of you on the Boulder campus, we have three databases from the World Bank:
  • Global Development Finance --This database contains statistical data for the 147 countries and country groups. The database covers external debt stocks and flows, major economic aggregates, and key debt ratios as well as average terms of new commitments, currency composition of long-term debt, debt restructuring, and scheduled debt service projections.
  • World Development Indicators --This database contains statistical data for over 575 development indicators and time series data for over 220 countries and country groups. Data includes social, economic, financial, natural resources, and environmental indicators.
  • World Bank e-Library This is an electronic portal to the World Bank's full-text collection of books, reports, and other documents. New titles and working papers are added to the database as they become available.
Finally, for those of you who still want more, check out the library's guide.