IMF boss cited in World Bank data irregularities

(The Southern African Times) – The World Bank has discontinued the publication of the annual ‘Doing Business’ reports that ranked countries according to the favourability of their business and investment climates after a review of data irregularities in 2018 and 2020.

In a statement on Thursday, the multinational lender said audits raised ethical concerns involving former board officials and staff.

“World Bank Group research informs the actions of policymakers, helps countries make better-informed decisions, and allows stakeholders to measure economic and social improvements more accurately,” the bank said.

“After reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report the Bank released today [investigation findings of the 2018 and 2020 irregularities], World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report.”

The development lender said it would work on a new approach to assess countries’ business and investment climates.

According to the findings, World Bank cited the International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva as having been under pressure to alter data related to China to boost its score.

“The changes to China’s data in Doing Business 2018 appear to be the product of two distinct types of pressure applied by bank leadership on the Doing Business team,” it said in the report, adding that there was “pressure applied by CEO Georgieva and her advisor, Mr (Simeon) Djankov, to make specific changes to China’s data points in an effort to increase its ranking at precisely the same time the country was expected to play a key role in the bank’s capital increase campaign.”

Ms Georgieva served as World Bank CEO between January 2017 and September 2019 before moving to the IMF.

In a review released by World Bank last December, China’s ranking in the 2018 report should have been seven places lower at position 78 instead of 85. The 2018 Doing Business report was released in October 2017.

The IMF boss has disagreed with the findings of the probe.

“I disagree fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of the Investigation of Data Irregularities as it relates to my role in the World Bank’s Doing Business report of 2018,” Ms Georgieva said in a statement. “I have already had an initial briefing with the IMF’s Executive Board on this matter,” she is quoted by Bloomberg.

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