THE WORLD BANK GROUP A World Free of Poverty

Helping Countries Combat Corruption: The Role of the World Bank

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Concluding Thoughts

This final chapter offers some concluding thoughts as the Bank moves forward in helping countries and international bodies address the problem of corruption.

First, there is both a growing awareness of the costs of corruption and a growing demand for Bank support for national and international efforts to combat this problem. The time is right for a more active and higher profile Bank role in this area, which respects the institution's mandate and builds on its comparative advantage.

Second, for the Bank anticorruption work is best thought of not as a set of new initiatives but rather as a more explicit integration of the problem (of which staff and management have long been aware) in country strategy formulation, Bank lending, economic and sector work, research, and country dialogue.

Third, if the Bank is to help its member countries, it has some catching up to do. It will have to learn more about what works and what does not in the fight against corruption. Notwithstanding longstanding efforts to control corruption in the projects it finances and a strong record of policy advice, the Bank is at an early stage in building up the knowledge it requires to help countries develop and implement broader anticorruption strategies. This report provides a framework, not a blueprint. This framework must now be filled in with research, policy work, project design, country studies, open dialogue with governments, learning from country experience, participation in international efforts, and interaction with other bodies active in this field. The Bank's new knowledge management systems will be crucial in gathering and disseminating this information.

Fourth, while corruption has clear economic costs, it is also a dimension of the way power is exercised, and it is thus a sensitive issue of governance. Although many governments are more open to discussing corruption than they were several years ago, the subject still requires careful handling. Thus the Bank's management is not making a blanket recommendation for regional action plans. While this approach may be appropriate for some regions, it is by no means the choice for all. Nevertheless, corruption is no longer a taboo subject in the Bank, and it will be dealt with in its operational work in ways that support borrowers' development objectives.

Fifth, institutions are central in the fight against corruption. Getting economic policy right, enforcing laws, maintaining financial management systems, and practicing sound procurement across the public sector require well-functioning institutions. Seen in this way, corruption is as much a symptom as a cause of malaise. The Bank needs to deepen its understanding of how institutions evolve and of what external agencies can do to help countries develop strong institutions. It needs to place more emphasis on high-quality public sector management and governance work. This has implications for staff skills and for the resources the Bank devotes to this area.

Finally, the Bank should not think of itself as working alone in this area. If countries are to make progress in combating corruption, it will come about only through national efforts that external agents like the Bank can support with policy advice and financial resources. In providing this support, the Bank needs to develop partnerships with other agencies and NGOs that are active in this area.

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