Oxfam at the annual meetings
by Elizabeth Stuart, Senior Policy Advisor and Head of Relations with World Bank and IMF Oxfam International
In between briefing journalists clamouring for stories on the World Bank’s new president, following press conferences and briefings, and holding lobby meetings, Oxfam spoke at two important seminars yesterday. One was on health and education, and the other discussed the importance of both the World Bank and the IMF researching the likely impact of their advice on the poor, before they give it.
While doing this kind of impact assessment should be a no-brainer, and its also supposed to be the policy of both institutions, neither is doing it properly. The two World Bank spokespeople at the event disagreed on the subject: one said that NGOs are naive to call for this, while the other thanked NGOs for pushing the Bank to improve its practice. The IMF spokesperson agreed that this impact analysis is important, but said that there is not enough money to do it.
In other news Zoellick gave an interview to the Financial Times saying that companies will start giving money to the arm of the Bank that lends (or in most cases, gives) to the poorest countries, the International Development Association, or IDA. In the past only governments have contributed to IDA, so this would be a radical departure, even if the amounts of money were small. This raises some concerns, such as whether or not this will affect the accountability of the institution, and whether the money will be predictable. Aid money that is given in fits and starts is of limited use to developing countries who need to know how much money that have coming in before they can hire the much needed teachers and nurses. The Bank will need to answer questions about how this will work in practice – and soon.
For now the press room is quiet, with everyone waiting for the G7 finance ministers press conference this evening.