World Bank chief pushes internal reforms at spring meetings

World Bank Group president Ajay Banga Photo: PEDRO PARDO/ AFP

World Bank President Ajay Banga said on Friday he plans to highlight a range of process improvements next week to speed up the development lender's loan approvals, improve the accountability of its 16,000 employees and attract private capital to projects.

Banga told reporters ahead of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund spring meetings that the development lender had reduced its average 19-month project approval time by about three months and would cut it by another three months by the middle of next year.

The former MasterCard CEO who took over the helm of the World Bank last June, is guiding the lender's expansion of its traditional development and anti-poverty mission to include fighting climate change and other global crises. This requires far greater resources and a major expansion of its lending capacity, which was $128.3 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2023.

The World Bank adjusted its loan-to-equity ratio to unlock another $40 billion of lending capacity over 10 years, but this falls far short of the trillions of dollars needed annually to finance the global energy transition and climate mitigation.

Banga said more steps were underway, including joint work with other multilateral development banks and credit ratings agencies to unlock the use of callable capital, the emergency capital pledged by governments but not paid in.

He said the World Bank will launch a new enterprise-wide platform for loan and insurance guarantees that puts it on a path to more than triple its guarantee issuances to $20 billion by 2030.

A major new securitisation initiative could also attract vast amounts of private capital, making it easier for institutional investors - pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds - to bring some portion of the $70 trillion they manage to these developing countries.

The World Bank also is reforming its business planning and budgeting processes to find savings to redeploy elsewhere, including $144 million from improving productivity at its core International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and International Development Association arms, Banga said.

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