The World Bank has had the quality of its surveys and forecasts audited. Never before has an international institution dared to question itself to such an extent. This comes as a welcome surprise because we have constantly said that conclusions reached and simulations carried out were unfounded and dangerous for international negotiating bodies like the WTO.
We are therefore waiting for the World Bank to draw its conclusions and we are ready to work alongside it in order to pave the way towards new global governance of agriculture and of all sensitive areas associated with it, such as, in particular, the development of poor countries, the preservation of the environment and security of supplies. ment.
A year ago, François Bourguignon, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank, asked a group of high-level independent experts to conduct an audit on the relevance of World Bank surveys.
Comprising 25 academics under the supervision of Abhijit Banerjee1 of the MIT, Angus Deaton2 of Princeton University and Kenneth Rogoff3 of Harvard University, this group of experts evaluated 4,000 documents published between 1998 and 2005.
Their report, delivered just before Christmas, emphasized that 61% of surveys published were above average. Its conclusion was nonetheless alarming for an Institution like the World Bank, as it serves as a basis for most decisions taken on an international level: "The World Bank too often uses the results of its surveys to proselytize on behalf of its own policies without sufficient detail and without expressing appropriate scepticism".
Angus Deaton goes on to say "Management of the World Bank sells some results more than it does others, which is fair enough, but I think there is a limit beyond which you cannot say that research elements support something while all you have at your disposal are weak or contradictory conclusions".
This was the case with regard to the impact of economic growth on poverty, when the World Bank claimed in its surveys that "growth is good for the poor"! The experts, however, "saw the fact that the World Bank repeatedly trumpeted empirical and preliminary conclusions without recognising that they were fragile and uncertain as a major failure of the Bank’s internal inspection systems".
Our reaction, given the results of this audit, is twofold:
> firstly, we salute the honesty and courage of François Bourguignon, who had the courage to challenge a major international negotiating body and who consequently laid down a challenge to the World Bank to implement major reforms of its methods of analysis and simulation.
> equally, we thoroughly deplore the fact that, for very many years, the international community and the negotiations it has organised have been based on results that are as "fragile and uncertain" as outlined by the authors of the report.
We now need to know what conclusions will be drawn from this report, and how the analyses and surveys of the World Bank will be put right in order to make them credible.
Will it have the responsiveness and room for manoeuvre necessary to restore the confidence that so many people had placed in it?
We above all do not want to rejoice about this situation since, if it only confirms what we have shown for over a year, it considerably reduces the value of the quality of international simulations, and it may turn out to be a serious handicap in dialogues between governments and international organisations.
This is the reason for which the work that we began in December 2005 by initiating the construction of an economic model that is specific to agriculture – the NAR model, combining the effects on material well-being, poverty, the environment and public health – is vital for establishing a new basis for worldwide governance.
It is with this in mind that the conference, to be held in Washington at the beginning of March in order to present the principles and objectives of the NAR model, takes on particular importance. This will be an opportunity to launch a "New Deal" in relation to methods and instruments intended to cast light on politicians from the international community within negotiating bodies such as the WTO, the IMF, the UNDP etc.
In any case, this report must already be viewed as a serious warning by the WTO, which must stop relying on results from the World Bank model in order to state that the Doha round is the "development Round".