The World Bank as an International Financial Institution

27 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2004

See all articles by Rasul Shams

Rasul Shams

Hamburg Institute of International Economics

Date Written: August 2004


The World Bank is a prestigious and large international financial institution. Since its foundation it has widened the scope and the size of its activities. One interpretation of what the World Bank is doing is the provision of public goods. If we take this interpretation seriously the comprehensiveness of the Bank's activity suggests that the Bank is assuming more and more the functions of a world government in the making. An alternative interpretation would look at the World Bank as a huge bureaucratic organization, acting on its own behalf. This interpretation can not be endorsed fully by the available information, but only in the sense of bureau-shaping. The Bank itself is proud of being a knowledge bank. But its actual activity is the popularization of ideas on development and not the application of research outcomes in its day-to-day operations. The most appropriate interpretation of the activity of the World Bank is that its changing scope and size is shaped heavily by pressure from different interest groups.

Keywords: International lending, economic development, public goods

JEL Classification: F33, F34, G21, O1

Suggested Citation

Shams, Rasul, The World Bank as an International Financial Institution (August 2004). HWWA Discussion Paper No. 292. Available at SSRN: or

Rasul Shams (Contact Author)

Hamburg Institute of International Economics ( email )

Heimhuder Strasse 71
D-20347 Hamburg, DE Hamburg 20148
+49 40 42834 442 (Phone)

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