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News ::
Is the world bank turning Marxist??
30 Aug 2002
"Is the WB turning Marxist?" is the theme of recent media criticism to the WB's annual report shedding new light on unrestrained globalization. It would seem the at WB is starting to understand (albiet slowly); when shall the press??
World Bank Seeks Global Approach to Development

As the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) scheduled to hold in Johannesburg, South Africa draws near, the World Bank has called on heads of states, ministers, private sector leaders and civil society representatives to make concerted efforts to ensure that poverty-reducing growth does not come at great cost to future generations, This Day (Nigeria) reports.

In its report, the World Bank said, "the next 50 years could see a four-fold increase in the size of the global economy and significant reduction in poverty, provided that government act now to avert a growing risk of severe damage to the environment and profound social unrest."

Meanwhile, the Mail and Guardian (South Africa) notes the World Bank's annual World Development Report estimates that as much as half the world's population, concentrated in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, will face "severe water shortages" by 2025. "Local water conflicts and the loss of freshwater ecosystems loom in some regions." A similar picture emerges from the globe's salt water regions. Three-quarters of the world's people may live within 100km of the sea in 2025, putting even more pressure on already stretched coastal ecosystems.

German Federal Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek Zeul laudes the World Development Report 2003, the Stuttgarter Zeitung (Germany) reports. It is "a refusal to blind neo-liberal belief in the markets". The development minister said on Thursday: "The World Bank stresses that the fight against poverty and the protection of resources cannot be left exclusively to market forces." Rules and institutions are necessary, in order to create a framework within which this will work.

The "aim of the world summit should be to create global alliances in order to guarantee that economic progress does not strain or endanger the environment", World Bank Vice-President Ian Johnson said. Wieczorek-Zeul criticized however, that the report should have stressed more clearly that the industrial nations must assume more responsibility. "Above all it are the industrialized countries and their economic development that cause environmental and climatic problems and thus have to take a special responsibility", she said. The World Bank had furthermore urged the rich countries to open their markets and not to subsidize their farmers any longer with approximately one billion dollar each day. Also the industrial nations have to put new technologies and medicaments to the disposal of developing countries.

Commenting, Die Tageszeitung (Germany) says that in their development report the World Bank urges the industrialized countries with amazing sharpness: If you continue to ignore the problems of the poor countries, your own standard of living will worsen dramatically. The Bank, that for years has financed environmentally and socially doubtful projects, now appears as an advocate for sustainable development. This could give cause for hope -- however: None of the demands of World Bank are new. The World Bank has done its duty, now it is the task of the participants of the world summit in Johannesburg to transform the demands into concrete action.

Is the World Bank turning Marxist, asks the Economist meanwhile. For a start, the World Development Report suggests that economic growth, long seen by liberal economists as the surest route to poverty alleviation and environmental improvement, is not enough. The WDR also rejects the view that despoiling nature is an unavoidable yet reversible companion to economic growth. Environmental problems are, “at their root, social problems. The distribution of assets, and of the costs and benefits of different policies, as well as the role of trust, are all critical to the ability of societies to develop competent rules and institutions to address environmental, social and economic problems.” The report argues that the “poor and disempowered” must have much greater access to assets if growth is to be sustainable and the world is to avoid social unrest.

So does the WDR really add up to a neo-Marxist call for the redistribution of assets? Not at all, insists Zmarak Shalizi, its lead author: “Our arguments are grounded in neoclassical economics and game theory.” He notes that his team defines a society's assets as including far more than merely land, labor and capital. Property rights, the rule of law, transparency and even trust count, too.

Shalizi argues, these assets are being “appropriated” in many societies by powerful individuals, governments, firms or bureaucrats. That explains why otherwise sensible policies—including ending environmentally damaging subsidies—are often thwarted.

All this, the WDR reckons, adds up to an opportunity to make growth more inclusive and sustainable. That is a surprisingly hopeful stance, given that sustainability gurus are usually a gloomy bunch. The summiteers in Johannesburg could do worse than to read this report.

Commenting on what he calls the “World Bank’s Green Report,” Michael Rothenburg of Politiken (Denmark) says the report’s conclusions are so clear that one constantly has to turn the cover to check whether one is really reading a report by the WWF or some other grass root organization.

Also reporting on the WDR are: Nachrichten (Germany), Mittelbadische Presse [and syndicate] (Germany), Handelsblatt (Germany), Augsburger Allgemeine (Germany), Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), Irish Times (Ireland), De Standaard (Belgium), Der Standard (Austria), Aftenposten (Norway), Dagens Næringsliv (Norway), Dagsavisen (Norway), NRK (Norway), Vedomosty (Russia), Gazeta Wyborcza's (Poland), ACT Media (Romania), Evenimentul Zilei (Romania) Adevarul (Romania), Rompres (Romania), Ambito Financiero (Argentina), La Nota (Colombia), Portafolio (Colombia), El Universal (Mexico), El Norte (Mexico), Uno más uno (Mexico), Milenio (Mexico), Notimex (Mexico), El Panamá América (Panama), ABC (Paraguay) and La República (Peru).

Meanwhile, writing in the International Herald Tribune, El Pais (Spain) and La Libre (Belgium), World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn says since rich nations are the greatest consumers of our common resources, they have a special responsibility to help the developing world address the risks.

We all must protect our forests and fisheries from overexploitation. We must halt soil degradation, and ensure that our water supplies are used efficiently. We must protect biologically diverse ecosystems, as they underpin the flow of goods and services essential to our economies and societies. We must limit emissions from factories, cars and households. Developing countries need to promote democracy, inclusiveness and transparency as they build the institutions to manage their resources. Rich countries should increase aid, support debt reduction, open markets to developing country exporters and help transfer technologies to prevent diseases, increase energy efficiency and bolster agricultural productivity.

Civil society can act as a voice for dispersed interests and provide independent oversight of public, private and nongovernmental performances. A socially responsible private sector, supported by good government, should create incentives for companies to pursue their interests while advancing environmental and social objectives, Wolfensohn says.

See also:,,date:08-23-2002~menuPK:34461~pagePK:34392~piPK:34427~theSitePK:4607,00.html
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