Attend Spring Meetings on Development topics from Apr 17-21. Comment and engage with experts. Calendar of Events

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Submitted by Benim on

The real question increasingly becomes how does the World Bank become meaningfully involved in changing decades long institutions and patterns of behavior when our financial contributions in MENA are limited and our knowledge is, at best, interesting but lacks any real bite in countries that have access to major other sources of funding? Does it really make any sense to continue lending in areas, for example, like MSMEs, infrastructure and the myriad other lending operations the Bank undertakes without any real, sustained policy impact or where the funding can just as easily come from commercial venues or other donor agencies? Even looking at the Bank as some sort of good housekeeping seal of approval doesn't work since since it appears that in MENA the Bank will lend as long as there is demand. In short it ends up supporting - whether it wants to or not - the very structures it rails against. The Bank has had engagements in many MENA countries and in some that relationship extends to well over 50 years with no discernible impact on everything from subsidies, private sector policies, etc. For example, the Bank obviously knew about the crony capitalism afflicting these countries long before the Arab spring, in fact they finally wrote about it in an excellent report, From Privilege to Competition in 2009. But then you look at World Bank operations and aside from tinkering around the margins, except for one or two examples, you would be hard-pressed to see any difference in terms of the types of lending and analytical work that is undertaken before and after the report and before and after the Arab Spring. I am guessing that there is an imperative to lend, and that takes precedence over all else, But if that is the case and it remains a demand-driven institution, very much led by the countries and their administrations, should it even pretend to have any real leverage interms of pushing for reforms? Should it focus on countries that have a real need for Bank concessional funding and those that are committed to reforms and maybe just disengage from countries that have access to international markets and where there is little appetite for meaningful reforms? Indeed, is it just undermining its own credibility by staying engaged with little impact, no matter the regime, no matter the policies and no matter the impact?