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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Q&A: What the World Bank does
World Bank headquarters in Washington
The World Bank is criticised almost as much as it is praised
The World Bank has hit the headlines thanks to a scandal involving its President Paul Wolfowitz and his partner - also a bank employee.

Mr Wolfowitz was forced to resign after it emerged he helped Shaha Riza win a promotion and significant pay rises at the international lender.

The former US Deputy Defence Secretary, and well-known White House hawk, was nominated to the post by US President George W Bush.

Mr Wolfowitz took over the post from James Wolfensohn in 2005.

What does the World Bank do?

Its original name is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

Set up in 1944, it was charged with driving post-World War II reconstruction.

Today, it is called the World Bank Group, has 184 member countries and is responsible for promoting economic development and reducing poverty.

Since its inception, the World Bank has lent and given grants and credits worth $400bn.

Its money is spent on specific projects such as motorways and dams.

Another arm of the bank, the International Development Association focuses on the world's poorest nations.

Other topics on the World Bank's agenda include the reduction of corruption and the promotion of education and healthcare.

What does the World Bank president do?

Think of him as a company chief executive.

Paul Wolfowitz

He is responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation, overseeing the bank's six regions and managing global operations.

As top dog, the president ensures the smooth running of the World Bank, making sure that everyone in the organisation knows the direction it is headed.

The president also liaises with world leaders, looking at ways of cutting poverty and improving conditions, but is forbidden by the bank's charter from taking a political stance.

As well as operational responsibilities, a bank president has a key role as a representative of the world's poorest people.

Through lobbying and speeches, the president is able to draw attention to the problems faced by developing nations such as unfair trade conditions and crippling debt repayments.

A president is responsible for the strategy and flavour of the World Bank.

What changes did Mr Wolfowitz make?

When he took over at the World Bank in 2005 he said that fighting corruption in poor countries was a priority.

He tackled countries who allow banking secrecy that allows corrupt leaders to squirrel away their illicit funds.

But some of his strategies were controversial and he had to make concessions, such as agreeing to engage with governments in countries with severe corruption problems.

Some of the bank's member countries disagreed with the suspension of loans to countries seen as having a corruption problem such as Chad, Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh.

Is the World Bank universally loved?

Far from it.

Campaigners have complained that the low-interest loans and long-term agreements hurt rather than help developing countries.

They add that by making nations dependent on aid, countries such as the US are able to exert extra political pressure in the international arena.




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