World Bank and IMF face criticism

Developing nations angry at lack of representation as financial bodies meet.

    Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's president, with Robert Zoellick, World Bank president, in Washington [EPA]

    Voting power
    The Group of 24 (G24) developing countries reiterated its call for a greater voice and democratic representation on the IMF's board.
    The group, which includes Argentina, Egypt and Venezuela, make up the majority of the IMF's membership but have little say over its decisions.
    A G24 statement said: "A significant redistribution of voting power in favour of emerging market and developing countries as a group should be the overarching objective of the reform.
    "The proposals tabled to date are disappointing and unacceptable as they fall far short of the reform's fundamental goals."
    New order
    The criticism comes amid a change in leadership at both institutions, with Rodrigo Rato, the IMF's managing director, leaving at the end of the month and Robert Zoellick having become World Bank president three months ago.
    With the increasing financial resources of countries such as China, which has lent millions of dollars, without conditions, to areas such as Africa, the bank is faces continuing doubts about its role in helping poor countries.
    The organisation is also often seen as a puppet of the White House.

    Hugo Chavez has created a new bank to
    help finance in South America [GALLO/GETTY] 

    In an effort to increase the financial independence of South American countries, Venezuela, which recently paid off its debts to the World Bank, has instigated a new bank which will help finance the region called Banco del Sur or the 'Bank of the South.'
    Meanwhile, the World Bank's efforts to attract money from developed countries in order to help tackle poverty were hit by a scandal earlier this year involving Paul Wolfowitz, its former president.
    Wolfowitz was forced from office over his handling of a large pay raise for a bank employee with whom he was having a relationship.
    Precarious finances
    The IMF is also facing criticism of its own financial management.
    The organisation has traditionally been the lender of last resort for troubled economies, but interest from its loans are drying up as potential borrowers turn to other easier sources of cash.
    Earlier this week the IMF suffered the indignity of a sharp warning about its precarious finances from ratings agency Standard and Poor's.
    The agency's report said the global institution "will continue to lose money, and risk hampering its ability to perform its role in the future, if it fails to restore its finances."
    The IMF lost about $110m in the fiscal year ending April 30 2007 "and on current trends will lose twice that amount in the fiscal year 2008," said John Chambers, chairman of Standard and Poor's sovereign rating committee.
    Meanwhile, an anti-globalization march in Washington aimed at the IMF and World Bank meeting turned violent on Friday evening, with shop windows smashed and one woman injured.
    Crowds waiving banners, who were protesting at what they see as the harmful policies of the financial bodies, marched peacefully at first in the Georgetown area before violence erupted.
    Police came out in force with riot masks and batons and ordered the crowds to disperse.
    Quentin Peterson, a police spokesman, said that one young woman had been taken to hospital for an injury after she was hit in the face by a brick.
    Local television reported that two clothing stores' windows were smashed.
    The marchers had headed west to Georgetown's shopping area after they were unable to get close to the IMF and World Bank headquarters in the heart of the city.
    October Rebellion, the campaign group that organised the protest, accused the IMF and World Bank on its website of harming the poor through their "neoliberal" loan policies.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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