(Following post is authored by Eva Vivalt, Post-Doc at the Development Research Institute)

The World Bank recently surprised applicants to its 2014 Young Professionals (YP) Program with the news that the YP program is cancelled for this year.  I have been unable to find any public announcement on this strange development.

The World Bank’s website calls the program, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, “the preeminent program preparing global development leaders”, and it is the main entry-point for professional staff. The sudden cancelling of the recruitment scheme after it had already solicited two rounds of application materials (at a painful cost in time and effort to the applicants) could suggest some combination of unprofessionalism and organizational disarray.

Asked for comment, David Theis, Chief of Media at the World Bank, provided the following rationale:

 The World Bank Group is currently undergoing a major restructuring — the first in a generation — to better align the entire organization to achieve its ambitious goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity, particularly for the lowest 40 percent in developing countries. Because of the institutional changes underway, which are expected to continue into the next fiscal year, the Bank Group has decided to postpone the recruitment of the 2014 Young Professional cohort until 2015, when the program will re-open.

The restructuring of the bank into 14 “Global Practices” is indeed a major shift. However, the YP program continued during previous restructurings, including the large ones in 1997 and 1987.

Jim Kim has committed to cutting $400 million over the next three years, and several divisions are in a hiring freeze. The cutbacks have been cited as a reason for the program’s suspension, though it is likely only one part of the story since the savings from cancelling one year of the YP program are small.

The head of the YP program left a few months ago, so it’s possible with less internal support, the program foundered. Even some senior management were surprised by the program’s temporary suspension. The YP program has a venerable history as a vehicle to recruit future leaders at the Bank. Its cancellation is a shock to those who follow the institution.

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