The World Bank

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe the role of the World Bank in promoting global economic development
Jim Yong Kim sitting on the floor with a group of young children who show him their drawings.

World Bank Group president Jim Yong Kim visits an integrated child development services and skills center in Delhi, India.

Created in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference in New Hampshire, the World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans for capital programs to developing countries. It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA). Originally, the IBRD was tasked with supporting post-war reconstruction, but it has evolved to include the present-day mandate to alleviate poverty worldwide. The World Bank is a component of the World Bank Group, which is part of the United Nations system. The World Bank is comprised of 189 member countries represented by a board of governors. Although headquartered in Washington, D.C., the World Bank has a presence in almost every nation in the world.

The World Bank has set two goals to achieve by 2030:

  1. End extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of the world’s population that live on less than US$1.90 per day to no more than 3 percent
  2. Promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40 percent in every country

The World Bank’s primary function is providing low-interest loans and grants to developing countries. It tends to fund projects focused on education, infrastructure, natural-resource management, and public health. In many instances, the World Bank provides technical assistance as well as research and policy advice to developing nations. One of the projects currently underway is the Education Sector Support Project for the Republic of the Congo. The primary objective of this project is to improve education outcomes for primary- and secondary-school children by providing quality education in an appropriate teaching and learning environment. Other World Bank projects are aimed at improving basic infrastructure, such as building and maintaining safe water supplies and sanitary sewer systems in Africa and parts of Asia. For developing nations, many of these improvements would be impossible without the World Bank’s help. Although the World Bank has come under fire in the past for budget overruns and poor project oversight, its role in promoting economic development has been undeniable.

The following video shows how a World Bank project works:

You can view the transcript for “How a World Bank Project Works: Inside the Efficient Lighting and Appliances Project in Mexico” (opens in new window).

Practice Question