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The World Bank Fights the “Cancer of Corruption”

I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Economics Report.

The main goal of the World Bank is to fight poverty. But, for almost ten years, the World Bank also has investigated financial crimes by government and bank officials.

In nineteen ninety-six, former World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned of the need to deal with the “cancer of corruption.”

The World Bank defines corruption as offering, giving, receiving, or asking for anything of value to influence the action of a public official. For example, a local official may demand that a foreign company pay him money, or a bribe, to permit a project to go forward.

The World Bank says corruption is the biggest barrier to development. Corruption hurts the poor people who are supposed to gain from development bank loans and aid.

The World Bank created a group of anti-corruption investigators in nineteen ninety-nine. It later became the Department of Institutional Integrity. The Bank says the D.I.I. has investigated almost two thousand accusations of corruption.

The Bank has twenty-two investigators. It spends about ten million dollars each year on anti-corruption measures. It says this is more than all other development banks combined.

The current World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, was appointed last year. Mister Wolfowitz says he will increase the number of investigators and the budget for fighting corruption. He also has suspended loans to India, Kenya, Bangladesh and other nations over concerns about corruption.

Reports say some members of the World Bank governing board do not agree with Mister Wolfowitz’s actions. They say it is not fair to deny a loan for purposes such as health care because some of the money goes to corrupt uses.

Critics of the Bank’s lending say it is not carefully supervising the loans and projects it finances. The Bank approves about two hundred forty new projects each year. And it has more than one thousand existing loans, each of which may contain many agreements.

The World Bank is part of the World Bank Group. It includes the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which has one hundred eighty-four member nations.

In two thousand four, the World Bank Group provided or guaranteed more than twenty-five thousand million dollars in loans.

This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. Our reports are online at I'm Steve Ember.