This visualization of the World Bank Borrowers today and in 2019 isn’t the most technologically sophisticated visualization we’ve ever posted but it is a stark illustration of what the future of the World Bank looks like.
As Tom Murphy writes over on Humanosphere:
The World Bank’s influence is waning. Some point to the emerging Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as evidence of the body’s declining power, but it is the World Bank’s own projections that illustrate the change. Thirty-six countries will graduate from World Bank loans over the next four years (see the above gif).
The images in Murphy’s gif come from a policy paper titled “The World Bank at 75” by Scott Morris and Madeleine Gleave at the Center for Global Development. The paper provides a thorough data-driven analysis of current World Bank lending models and systematic trends that will shape its future. From the paper:
The World Bank continues to operate according to the core model some 71 years after the founding of IBRD and 55 years after the founding of IDA: loans to sovereign governments with terms differentiated largely according to one particular measure (GNI per capita) of a country’s ability to pay. Together, concessional and non-concessional loans to countries still account for 67 percent of the institution’s portfolio.
So when the World Bank looks at the world today, it sees a large number of countries organized by IDA and IBRD status.
And what will the World Bank see in 2019, on the occasion of its 75th anniversary? On its current course and with rote application of existing rules, the picture could look very different, with far fewer of those so-called “IDA” and “IBRD” countries.
But does this picture accurately reflect the development needs that will be pressing in the years ahead? Or instead, does it simply reflect an institutional model that is declining in relevance?
It is remarkable how enduring the World Bank’s basic model has been. The two core features (lender to sovereign governments; terms differentiated by countries’ income category) have tremendous power within the institution, which has grown up around them. The differentiation in terms has generated two of the core silos within the institution: the IBRD and IDA. And lending to national governments (what we will call the “loans to countries” model) is so dominant that it has crowded out other types of engagement, even when there has been political will to do other things (notably, climate-related financing).
So while the model has been laudably durable in some respects, it is also increasingly seems to be stuck at a time when external dynamics call for change.
This paper examines ways in which seeming immoveable forces underlying the World Bank’s work might finally be ripe for change in the face of shifting development needs. Specifically, we offer examples of 1) how country eligibility standards might evolve; and 2) how the bank might move further away from the “loans to countries” model that has long defined it.