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Wolfensohn’s World Bank

What is the role of the World Bank, the world's biggest development agency, now that private capital flows freely to many poor countries? Michael Prest surveys the first year in office of president James Wolfensohn and his attempt to renew the bank's sense of purpose

Each year on April Fool’s Day a samizdat magazine circulates among World Bank staff. Called Bank Swirled, a play on the title of the recently abolished staff magazine Bank’s World, it satirises bank life with Swiftian cruelty. The authors, whose identity is one of this gossip-ridden institution’s best-kept secrets, spare no person or policy.

Some of the most savage attacks have been reserved for bank presidents. A couple of years ago, the late, luckless Lewis Preston was the subject of a cruel cartoon which asked: “Where’s Lew?” But this year’s edition is unusually generous to the present incumbent, James Wolfensohn.…

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