Editorial, NewAge, March 16, 2009
WHEN the finance adviser of the immediate-past interim government declared last September that Bangladesh’s estimated $5 billion climate adaptations fund would be managed by the World Bank, there was broad opposition to this plan within the government, and among NGOs and civil society groups. We warned at the time that the bank’s involvement would not only undermine our government’s control over the funds but also compromise the country’s position at UN negotiations, where the LDC group, of which Bangladesh is a key member, are demanding that funds stay outside of the control of multilateral lenders. This danger has sadly become relevant once again, as negotiations may once more be ongoing to task the bank with the responsibility of managing the multi-donor trust fund. According to a New Age report published on Sunday, the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods — a network of over 150 local NGOs involved with climate change — has warned that the UK government, one of the major donors, may be pressuring the government to task the bank as manager, despite its reassurances earlier that it was the Bangladesh government’s prerogative to choose the mechanism through which this fund would be administered.
Our reservations with the World Bank and its activities are based on the knowledge of decades of bitter experiences that Bangladesh and a large number of least developed countries can speak of in their dealings with the bank. For one, the World Bank suffers from a serious lack of transparency in its decision making and its financial dealings, leaving scope for massive internal corruption which has, time and again, been exposed from within the Bank’s own books. Secondly, the bank has a record for imposing secret and unrelated conditionalities that governments of least developed countries are often expected to satisfy before they qualify for funds. Such conditionalities have received widespread criticism for causing fragile economies to collapse through the dismantling of a nation’s tariff regimes, to give one example, often causing local industry and agriculture to lose their markets to cheap exports. If the World Bank is the manager of this massive fund, conditionalities will no doubt have to be met on how the funds are spent, when, and to buy what. These are all decisions that the government of a sovereign people’s republic of Bangladesh should be free to decide, and not a multilateral lender with a shameful record for economic predation and corruption. Thirdly, the World Bank will no doubt charge a fee for the management of the fund — even a seemingly paltry 1 per cent is $50 million — which could comfortably finance a national equivalent management body for much more than a few decades.
Given these realities, we believe it is in the national interest of Bangladesh to assert the government’s — and hence the people’s — right to control and administer funds raised for Bangladesh’s efforts to combat the fallout of manmade climate change. It is important to remind the donors that climate funding is largely seen as a compensation for the industrial excesses of the west over the past century and the traditional donor-recipient formula is not acceptable under these circumstances.