As many have heard by now, the leaders of the so-called BRICS nations – Brazil, India, China, Russia and South Africa – used the occasion of the 6th BRICS Summit in Brasilia, Brazil to announce the creation of the long-awaited BRICS Development Bank.
Formally the “New Development Bank,” it will be based in Shanghai and capitalized with an initial $10 billion in cash ($2 billion from each of the five founding members) and $40 billion in guarantees, to be built up to a total of $100 billion.
Immediately, the press began touting the new bank as a potential rival to the current IMF / World Bank system of infrastructure development and poverty reduction in the third world. “BRICS Development Bank Could Challenge World Bank and IMF” touts US News & World Report. “BRICS Ink $50 Billion Lender in World Bank, IMF Challenge” asserts Bloomberg. The World Bank, for its part, is downplaying the rivalry, with World Bank President Jim Young Kim openly welcoming the bank at a recent meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “The only competition we have is with poverty,” he told reporters at the meeting.
But all of this talk about a potential rival to the IMF and World Bank have exposed the general public’s ignorance about what exactly these institutions are and what they do. While most are familiar with the IMF and its predatory lending practices (and those who aren’t are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the “IMF riot” strategy that was developed in the third world and is now being imported to Europe), the World Bank is less scrutinized and less well understood. What is it, what does it do, and why is it important for the BRICS to challenge its hegemony in the development and poverty reduction arenas?
For the answer to that, we’ll need to examine the World Bank’s history, both the official history that it touts to the outside world and the real history of its part in plundering the developing world that it is supposedly there to help.