Reviews Book

The World's Banker: A Story of Failed States, Financial Crises, and the Wealth and Poverty of Nations

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 24 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:736
  1. Barbara Stocking, director
  1. Oxfam

    Even before I was asked to review this book I knew I would have to read it, as the World Bank probably has more influence, for good or ill, on poverty and development than any other institution in the world. Understanding how it has worked in the last 10 years under its controversial leader is very important. I didn't expect to enjoy the book, so I was pleasantly surprised: it was gripping.

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    Sebastian Mallaby

    Yale University Press, £19.95, pp 462 ISBN 0 300 10801 X

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    When James Wolfensohn arrived at the bank in 1995 it was at a dangerous moment in its history. Robert MacNamara's earlier vision of poverty reduction had faded, and the bank had become cautious, technocratic, and out of touch with the effects of its policies on poverty. It was under severe challenge from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including my own, Oxfam, because its structural adjustment policies were making poor people poorer by reducing public services such as health and education, as well as taking away support to poor farmers. As a result of the rise in oil prices and the decline in income from other commodities, many poor countries had also built up enormous debt, and NGOs were calling for debt relief—although this was ignored by the bank.

    Wolfensohn was up …

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