The World Bank and the ‘Gods of Lending’

Seminar date: 
27 May 2008
Speaker(s): Steve Berkman

Steve Berkman had a career in industry and technical education before joining the World Bank's Africa Region Group in 1983 where he provided advice and assistance on capacity building and institutional development issues. Realizing that the Bank's lending programme was exposed to high risk from corruption, his attempts to convince management of the extent of the problem were initially given little credence. However later, he helped establish an Anti-Corruption and Fraud Investigation Unit and was lead investigator on a number of corruption cases in Africa and Latin America. He has provided assistance to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on legislation to reform multilateral development banks and the Senate passage of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

Discusant: Dr Stephen Ellis 

This lecture is being organized in cooperation with the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, the Interfacultary Ethnological Student Debating Club WDO in Leiden and Transparancy International Nederland.

The Gods of Lending (Kumarian Press) by Steve Berkman exposes myths surrounding the World Bank and its mission to alleviate poverty in underdeveloped countries and describes how endless changes of institutional direction make it impossible to hold management accountable for failure. Fiduciary responsibility has been ignored as money goes into the coffers of corrupt and dysfunctional governments. Drawing upon his experiences in Africa, the author demonstrates how corruption permeates the Bank's lending portfolio. Billions of dollars have been provided to governments run by corrupt elites whose only agenda is to remain in power and enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. The World Bank is seen as becoming increasingly infatuated with the accumulation of knowledge at the expense of diligence. As a result, resources have been diverted away from supervision of its lending operations, which are its raison d'être. In effect, the Bank has become a university or think tank, producing thousands of documents each year that rarely translate into meaningful results in the field. Steve Berkman proposes that these activities could be more effectively done by academia so that the Bank can return to the business of ensuring transparent and successful development.