The World Bank : A critical Primer

12 March 2008 by Eric Toussaint

The World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 180 members in 1997), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.
is a controversial organisation. It is widely viewed with suspicion, as the international economic arm of the US, in thrall to the President who is responsible for appointing the head of the Bank.

Eric Toussaint gives a highly readable account of just why the World Bank has become so powerful. In short, clear chapters he shows how the bank operates, who funds it, and what it sets out to promote.

The Bank’s main purpose is to grant loans to all the newly independent states of the developing world, to help them on their journey to recovery after colonial occupation. In reality, the conditions imposed on these states — including enforced privatisation of all public services, and enforced neo-liberal rules on trade — mean that the Bank has become the new colonial authority in everything but name.

This is a perfect book for anyone looking for a critical introduction to the history of the Bank and its role in world affairs.

Eric Toussaint is President of the Committee for the Abolition of Third World debt (CADTM).

The international network of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (CADTM) is a constellation of associations, organisations, collectives, individuals and movements active in all corners of the world, from a wide variety of cultures, practices and horizons and united by a shared will to combat neo-liberal globalisation and counter it with “another world” based on solidarity, equality and social justice, one they are helping to create daily in their own way, locally, regionally and/or internationally.

Buy online (Pluto Press)


Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France. He is the author of Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc. See his bibliography: He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. Since the 4th April 2015 he is the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt.

Other articles in english by Eric Toussaint (399)

0 | 20 | 40 | 60 | 80 | 100 | 120 | 140 | 160 | ...

Other publications in english :

  • History of the CADTM Anti-Debt Policies
    14 June - Eric Toussaint, Benjamin Lemoine
  • Bankocracy
    30 October 2015 - Eric Toussaint
  • Preliminary Report of the Truth Committee on Public Debt
    18 June 2015 - Truth Committee on the Greek Public Debt
  • World Debt Figures 2015
    31 March 2015 - Eric Toussaint, Daniel Munevar, Pierre Gottiniaux, Antonio Sanabria
  • Citizen Public Debt Audit - Experiences and methods
    5 March 2015 - Maria Lucia Fattorelli



35 rue Fabry
4000 - Liège- Belgique

00324 226 62 85