Reforming the World Bank: Twenty Years of Trial - and Error

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In the many studies of the World Bank a critical issue has been missed. While writers have looked at the Bank’s political economy, lending, conditions, advice, ownership and accounting for issues such as the environment, this study looks at the Bank as an organization – whether it is set up to do the job it is supposed to do and, if not, what should be done about it. The book is about the problems of organization and reorganization as much as it is about the problems of assisting third-world development, and it is a case study in flawed organizational reform as much as a critique of the way development assistance is managed. It covers the period that starts at the time of the first major reorganization, in 1987 under President Barber Conable, and ends at the time of the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz, in 2007, but it focuses especially on what happened during the tenure of James Wolfensohn.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A wonderfully frank, clearheaded, well-researched opus and a great read for organization geeks, foreign aid friends and critics, and World Bank insiders. Bound to annoy and provoke, and maybe to inspire.” – Nancy Birdsall, Center for Global Development, Washington, DC

“Reorganizations at the World Bank might seem like a narcoleptic subject. But David Phillips brings alive the tortuous history of the Bank and makes us realize that it matters for one oft-overlooked constituency – the world’s poor.” – William Easterly, New York University

“Why is it that every newly appointed President of the World Bank feels the urge to launch a massive re-organization knowing that all previous attempts to do so ended up creating more problems than those they solved? David Phillips’ book offers a fascinating overview of the forces that drive the organizational learning disability that for decades has weakened this important institution.” – Moisés Naím, Foreign Policy Magazine

"Phillip's conclusion that 20 years of reform failed may discourage students of development but intrigue the book's primary audience, management theorists. Appreciative of the complexity of the task, the author outlines governance reform to improve development assistance.... Highly recommended." - Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521883054
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 342
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David A. Phillips has spent many years in developing countries, especially in Africa. He is an economist who, after starting his career in multinational companies, turned his attention to the field of development, spending 14 years at the World Bank Group and in recent years working as director of a private consulting firm based in the UK and United States. Dr Phillips held a lectureship at the University of Bradford Development Centre in the UK and was an official at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. He has also lived and worked on an extended basis in Tanzania, Nepal and Belarus. Dr Phillips has published journal papers on small business development and cost-benefit analysis.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Origins and Evolution: 1. What does the World Bank do and how does it do it?; 2. The emerging critique; Part II. The Search for Effectiveness: 3. Fifty years of bank reforms; 4. The 1990s - reengineering the organization; 5. Changing culture and changing people; 6. Reforming the bank's assistance product; 7. Changing the quality of development assistance; 8. Financing the reorganization; 9. Why did the reforms fail?; Part III. Towards Real Reform: The Governance Agenda: 10. The governors and the directors; 11. The leadership; 12. Looking back and looking forward: what is to be done?

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