(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.
Is the emphasis on nations as actors in development excessive and obsolete?
Come to DRI’s Annual Conference on Friday November 15th! Studies to be presented will show how development spreads with the spread of people, goods, technologies, and ideas across national boundaries. Other talks feature evidence showing a much smaller than expected role for nations and national leaders in explaining development outcomes. It is time for fresh thinking on how development spreads so that it can spread even more.
William Easterly: Why are we So Obsessed with Nations in Economic Development?
Most development differences are explained by differences between regions (e.g. Europe vs. Africa, East Asia vs. Latin America) rather than differences between nations. Yet both right and left exaggerate the role of national policy actions in development. Migration of peoples like the emigrants from Fujian Province, China to the rest of East Asia helps explain the success of intra-regional trade, investment, and development in East Asia. The decentralized spread of technologies like mobile phones and even cars has contributed far more to development than national efforts to sponsor politically-fashionable technologies like broadband.
Ross Levine: The Spread of Development through Colonial European Settlement
As much as 40 percent of the development that has ever happened outside of Europe is associated with migration and settlement of Europeans during the colonial period in places around the world. What did the settlers bring with them to make this happen?
Emmanuel Akyeampong and Yaw Nyarko: How Indigenous Entrepreneurs Brought Cocoa and Transformed Ghana
The spread of development to Ghana was tied to the spread of cocoa. The first cocoa beans were brought into Ghana by a local farmer from Equatorial Guinea around 1878, and within 20 years Ghana was the world’s largest producer. Cocoa has thrived ever since except when punitively taxed. The colonial and post-colonial governments have been less successful actors than indigenous entrepreneurs. For example, in an effort to promote other commodities, the independence-era governments built storage silos all over the country; the silos were successful only as nesting grounds for indigenous snakes.
Jonathan Morduch: Keynote Speech: How Microcredit Went Global
One of the most celebrated innovations in development and aid did not happen at the national level. The creation of a global microcredit movement was achieved through transnational networks dedicated to codifying best practices, reforming financial regulations, and building investment funds. The story helps understand the often counter-intuitive role of global public goods in promoting development.
Steven Pennings: Do National Leaders Matter?
This paper challenges the conventional wisdom that national leaders like Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Park Chung Hee in South Korea deserve credit for the growth miracles that happened on their watch. The evidence speaks surprisingly and strongly: the data are inconsistent with the attribution of growth miracles or disasters to national leaders.
Conference funding is generously provided by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Samuel Lowenberg has an article in the Lancet:
The World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) have consistently failed to act on allegations of human rights abuses in Ethiopia, including ones that are tied to their aid programmes, according to new reports…
The reports raise troubling questions over alleged abuses—including beatings, rape, and murder—connected to the government’s villagisation programme…
The report by the Oakland Institute documents how officials from USAID and DFID, who were investigating claims of abuse, heard first-hand accounts from villagers recounting brutal treatment by Ethiopian authorities under the villagisation programme. But even after these reports the two agencies failed to act.
One renegade former World Bank economist comments:
In view of the long-running problems documented in Ethiopia, “the impunity of the donors astonishes me”…. Human rights are essential to development, so when a foreign donor finances a government that represses these rights, it does not help a country develop, it sets it back, he says.
Please read the whole article, it is essential reading for anyone who cares about development.