A damning audit of the World Bank, which the author charges has failed to live up to either the limited purposes envisioned...


MASTERS OF ILLUSION: The World Bank and the Poverty of Nations

A damning audit of the World Bank, which the author charges has failed to live up to either the limited purposes envisioned by its founders or the broader ambitions of latter-day administrators. Drawing on a wealth of sources, journalist Caufield (Multiple Exposures: Chronicles of the Radiation Age, 1989, etc.) offers a harsh critique of the multilateral institution created in 1944 to fund the economic recovery of nations ravaged by WW II and to make loans to less developed countries unable to secure credit from commercial banks. Providing an ad hoc history of the World Bank via unsparing evaluation of the men who have headed it (Eugene Black, Robert McNamara, A.W. Clausen, et al.), she documents the evolution of an arrogant, secretive, and incompetent bureaucracy that in all too many instances has done more harm than good. Cases in point include bank-backed infrastructure enterprises in Africa, rural India, and the Amazon rainforest, which have wreaked environmental havoc and displaced multitudes of indigenous peoples. The author goes on to argue that the WB's predilection for megabuck lending has further impoverished already poor nations, in large measure because it has confused growth with economic development. Addressed as well are the reasons why the largely unaccountable institution (which seldom reviews the work it has financed) seems to prefer dealing with authoritarian regimes whose records on human rights leave much to be desired. While the bank's brief has expanded in recent years to encompass education and health care, the author shows that it has done precious little to advance social welfare in client countries. Nor, she concludes, has the WB made any discernible progress toward its stated objective of alleviating, if not eliminating, poverty throughout the Global Village. This tellingly detailed tract could spark a new debate as to whether the World Bank is of any earthly use as presently organized.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997


Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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