Colombo, September 17: The World Bankannounced on Thursday that it has “paused” ortemporarily called off its Doing Business Report (DBR) after internal audits of the 2018 and 2020 reports revealed data manipulation. The suspension of the DBR is a welcome development from the point of view of poor and developing countries, says the US-based Think Tank, Oakland Institute.

The World Bank has been using DBRs to drive policy and regulatory changes favorable to businesses and corporations, the Think Tank said. Ranking countries on the “Ease of Doing Business” (EDB) scale, the bank pressed developing countries to dismantle labor rights, social and environmental safeguards to attract private investors,” Oakland Institute said in a press communique.

The suspension of the DBR is a result of the efforts of the Our Land Our Business Campaign (OLOBC), coordinated by the Oakland Institute.  Since 2014, the OLOBC has been saying that the DBR and the EDB scale have had a disastrous impact on countries in the Global South, manifesting in grabbing of land and natural resources.

The OLOBC exposed how then-Bank CEO (now IMF Managing Director) KristalinaGeorgieva applied “pressure” to “make specific changes to China’s data points in an effort to increase its ranking for the 2018 DBR” because China was expected to increase its financial contribution to the Bank’s capital. The then World Bank President, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, was also implicated in the effort to increase China’s ranking.

Simeon Jankov, one of the founders of the DBR and a Senior Bank official was implicated in altering Saudi Arabia’s data to boost that country’s ranking in an effort to reward the country for the “important role it played in the Bank community. In 2018, the then World Bank’s Chief Economist, Paul Romer, exposed how the DBR scores for Chile were skewed and politically manipulated to disfavor a progressive government in that country.

Since DBR’s launch in 2002, the World Bank has ranked countries on the “Ease of Doing Business,” i.e. on regulatory changes and reforms that make them more attractive to private investors. These “reforms” have included lowering corporate taxes, slashing environmental safeguards, bringing down social and labor standards, cutting administrative procedures, and removing restrictions on trade and business. The Oakland Institute has extensively documented the disastrous impact of these regulatory changes at the country level in dozens of countries.

Evidence of manipulation of the rankings is a slap in the face of the poorest countries forced to deregulate their economies to attract investors against fallacious promises of aid and development. After this victory, members of the campaign will remain vigilant as the World Bank continues to leverage its influence and pressure countries to prioritize reforms that benefit corporate interests over true development,” said Oakland Institute’s Executive Director Anuradha Mittal.



Other Aspects of Skewed Development

The manipulation of data to push a Western capitalist line and capitalist interests by the World Bank is only one of the manifestations of the West-directed and dominated world order. In a speech at the UN Food Systems pro-summit on July 26 this year, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs of Colombia University, who is currently Advisor to the UN on Sustainable Development Goals, highlighted the larger issue of the inequities perpetrated by Western countries on their own populations as well as other countries.

Sachs said that the World Food System is based on large multinational companies’ interest in making profits.  It’s based on a very, very low measure of international transfers to help poor people, sometimes none at all.  It’s based on extreme irresponsibility of powerful countries with regard to the environment, and it’s based on a radical denial of the rights of poor people,” he said.

Sachs recalled that the CIA assassinated Congo’s first popular leader, Patrice Lumumba and installed a dictatorship there for the next 30 years so that the Glencore Corporation and others Western firms could suck out cobalt without paying taxes. And yet the West would cheekily ask the people of the exploited countries: “Why don’t you govern properly?” he remarked.  

Sachs pointed out that the private sector in the US has had the military behind it. The Honduraswas ruled for a long time by the US company United Fruit (UF). The UF’s attorney was John Foster Dulles; and his brother, Allen Welsh Dulles, was the head of the CIA, who overthrew Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz to make sure that United Fruit could have its property.

In an damning attack on his own country, the US, Sachs said: “ I come from a country that not only doesn’t care about the world’s poor; it doesn’t even care about its own poor.  One in seven Americans is hungry right now. All itcares about is cutting taxes for the rich and filibustering any solution. The private sector’s not going to solve this problem.

Favoring the Rich  

Sachs pointed out that the rich countries borrowed US$ 17 trillion for COVIDmanagement but the poor could borrow nothing “because the rich countries can borrow at 0% and the poor countries pay 5% or 10% coupon rates or have no access at all.  The US spent US$ 7 trillion on emergency funding but didn’t give a penny to any other country. Sachs suggested that the rich countries and institutions like the World Bank should massively lend to the poor countries at near zero interest rates.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there is a financing gap of about US$400 billion to US$ 500 billion a year for the basics for the SDGs.  The UN should be playing a big role in finding the funds, but the UN is poorer than New York City, Sachs points out. The UN’s core budget this year is US$ 3 billionbut New York City’s budget is US$ 100 billion. “The rich are hoarding everything.

Discrimination in Health

An editorial in The Guardian recently quoted the World Health Organization’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, as saying that of the 4.8 billion COVID vaccine doses delivered around the world to date, around 75% had gone to just 10 countries. In Africa, where a third wave of the virus has been on the march since May, less than 2% of the continent’s population has received a first dose.

Governments with the means to do so have secured preferential deals for vaccines, over-ordered doses, hoarded them and restricted exports. Britain has played a leading role in opposing calls for intellectual property rights for vaccines to be temporarily waived. Overall, donations from richer countries have not remotely approached the level required. Covax, the vaccine-pooling scheme, has under-delivered, losing its major supply source after India’s decision to ban AstraZeneca exports. On the ground, insufficient time, effort and finance have been devoted to ensuring that the infrastructure is in place to carry out vaccination programmes efficiently, when doses are available. The likely result is that most people in low-income countries will be required to wait until 2023 to be vaccinated. This desperately slow rollout will cost the global economy US$2.3 trilion in lost output, according to a study published today. The brunt of those losses will be borne by the unvaccinated poor,” The Guardian said.

China is filling the vaccine gap through aggressive programs across the globe. Qi Zhenhong, Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka, said in a recent article that as of early September. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal have received 70 million, 22 million, 19 million, and 7.4 million doses of the Chinese vaccine respectively. Pakistan and Bangladesh have also started local vaccine production with China’s support.




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