World Bank unveils composition of 'Doing Business' Review panel (December 2012)

Rethinking Bretton Woods | Tue, Dec 4, 2012

By Aldo Caliari

This article comments on the World Bank's announcement of the composition of the Panel that will undertake a 10th Anniversary review of its Doing Business project.



The World Bank is initiating a review of the Doing Business project, in the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the project.

The review had been welcome by civil society advocates who saw it as an opportunity for shining the spotlight of an independent review on methodological and operational flaws and opening the project to a debate. It did not take long, however, before those hopes were dashed, as the World Bank announced the actual composition of the panel and its terms of reference. Demands that civil society and trade unions be broadly represented in the panel went unheeded, as only a former Canadian government official who currently chairs Transparency International’s Board of Directors, Ms Hughette Labelle, has been included. So went requests that terms of reference of the review be subject to consultations (See full letter to World Bank President). The panel is chaired by South Africa’s Minister in charge of the Planning Commission (formerly Minister of Finance who chaired the IMFC for several years). It is yet to be seen what amount of consultation the panel members will carry out in pursuit of their mandate.

The stakes in ensuring a review that not only is, but also appears to be, independent, and balances views likely to be supportive with voices critical of the project, are very high. Indeed, a criticism that cuts across all areas of research of the Bank is how limited or non-existent external peer-review tends to be. Findings of a panel issuing the first ever general examination of the Bank’s research products in 2006 reinforced these generalized view. World Bank officials have been at pains to express how much things have changed since that panel issued its conclusions.

But the Bank’s behavior so far regarding, concretely, the Doing Business report, is unlikely to back its own claims.

The International Trade Union Confederation reacted to the launch of this year’s Doing Business report expressing dismay at its unfounded claims that weakening labour regulations will stimulate job creation. The Secretary General of the confederation, Mr Sharan Burrow, called on the World Bank “to remove the theme of labour from Doing Business once and for all.”

In its own release in response to the Doing Business report, the UK-based charity CAFOD –also member of the CIDSE network -   warned that its one-size-fits-all regime was undermining the fight against poverty. “It is not just that some reforms promoted by the Doing Business rankings might be irrelevant for the majority of businesses in developing countries – in some instances they are actively harmful to poor men and women,” said CAFOD staff Christina Chang. These claims are well-substantiated in a brief also issued by CAFOD (see further in this same mailing).

A side event convened by CAFOD, Center of Concern and others during the recent Annual General Meetings of the World Bank/IMF, held in Tokyo, gave occasion for hearing other important concerns. Economist Geoffrey Chongo, from Zambian CSO Jesuit Center for Theological Reflection, commented that the publication “gives too much attention to big businesses, not to small businesses.”

The Alternate Executive Director for China, Mr Bin Han, stated “"For China, the conclusion made, based on our past ten years experience, is straightforward: the report has used wrong methodologies, failed to reflect facts, misled readers and added little value to improving China’s business environment, not to mention its growth and development."

Click here to see report on the Tokyo side-event, including recordings of the panel presentations.