Most Powerful Groups in the World - The World Bank Part 3

About the history of the organization known as the World Bank or International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.



Recently World Bank has gotten into the energy business. After a bank study showed that 70 developing countries probably have about 60 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but have only found about 10 billion barrels, the bank decided to invest small amounts in exploratory drilling. The increasing rise in poorer nations' import-oil debts, as well as continued inflation, has set World Bank officials clamoring that in order to meet rising needs its lending authority must be increased substantially. Loans the bank made during 1980 came in at just under $12 billion, and its tentative schedule calls for the bank's lending commitments to increase to around $20 billion by 1985.

Famous Members: World Bank presidents have always been Americans, with former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara perhaps doing the most to shape bank policy during his 1968-1981 term. (A. W. Clausen, president of Bank America, took over the post in June, 1981.) While acting as the bank's head, McNamara, a self-made expert on third-world problems, was praised for showing a "concern for humanity and a sympathy for the poor that most bankers lack." Not everyone looked upon McNamara's term with favor, however, Barrons called him an "autocratic ruler," under whose guidance billions of dollars were lavished on projects with little hope of return on the investment. A Forbes editorial noted, "Perhaps the cruelest thing that can be said about McNamara is that he may be a brilliant man without much common sense."

How Much Power: Today the World Bank supervises some 1,600 programs throughout the third world, at a cost of $100 billion. Of course, it seeks to protect those investments. There is no better example of the bank's pervasive power than its entanglement in the government machinery in the Philippines. In 1970 the Marcos regime, under threat of losing its credit rating, took the unpopular step of devaluing its peso. Martial law was imposed in 1972 with the active participation of the bank. By 1975 the World Bank was pouring some $208 million a year into the Philippines. The bank's power, needless to say, now permeates every political and economic sector of that nation. And the Philippines is just one small tip of the iceberg.

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