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Date: 2024-05-21 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00024240
DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTIONS
WORLD BANK GROUP AND THE UNITED NATIONS

TPB: Management in the International Development Assistance arena is extremely weak


Original article:
Peter Burgess COMMENTARY
It is now March 2023. I am 83 years old, and many of the issues that bothered me when I was mid-career in my fifties are still in play, and in many cases a lot worse now than then.

Older people probably thought of me as an obnoxious young brat when I was in my 20s and 30s and pretty opinionated about management performance in the corporate world. Bottom line, however, was that I was quite good at getting companies to generate higher profits, and that obviated the need for me to be nice. Senior people tolerated me because I was good gor their 'bottom line' and incentive compensation.

I di not fit very well into the role of an independent consultant ... I was expendable and getting line managers in corporate jobs to take high risk / high reward decisions was not easy. I did find a fit doing consulting work for organizations like the World Bank, the United Nations and a few international corporate organizations where my international experience in the corporate sector had some relevance. But the fit was by no means perfect. In the private corporate sector I had been involved with the cutting edge of corporate management as promulgated at the time by the Harvard Business School and others while the World Bank, IFC, UN and others were stuck in a time warp circa 1950! When I first started doing work for the international community (World Bank, UN, etc.) around 1980 the lack of a solid management structure was offset by a core group of very experienced older staff many of whom had been 'colonial officers' working for the international offices of the old colonial powers. In my case I found myself working with very experienced Brits and French mainly ... people who had years of field experience working for their respective governments and now employed by the World Bank and the United Nations.

But that was not going to last.

McNamara as President of the World Bank introduced a 'Young Professionals Program' where young graduates from good universities were recruited into the World Bank to learn 'development' and become the core of World Bank staff for the future. My impression of this group was less than stellar ... they had superb academic credentials but had zero real world experience. This is, of course, something of a generalization, some were very good, but the majority were not. Over time, this became a bigger and bigger problem because as time went on many of these people got to become professors at the academic institutions and started to 'teach' the upcoming new 'young professionals' creating a perfect storm of management weakness in the international develppment world.

The situation was also aggravated by a reasonable initiative to get a more diverse staff into the World Bank and the UN. Again, some of people were really good, but many were involved with a variety of opportunistic activities and difficult to dislodge.

A lot of the issues that I observed over the years within the World Bank Group and within the United Nations could have been resolved if there had been an objective system of management metrics ... but nothing like it existed in either of these systems. Without management metrics ... anything goes ... and the real performance of both the World Bank Group and the United Nations has been rather mediocre, to say the least.
Peter Burgess
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A posting from April 2001

Dear Colleagues

I wrote the following in April, 2001 ... when I was already trying to get attention to the issue of failed relief and development sector performance. This posting was about the sad fact that the relief and development policy framework did not work at all well for developing countries. Not much has changed in the years since them!

Peter Burgess
///////////////////////////
TO: DIGOPP Working Group From: Peter Burgess
Date: Mon Apr 16 2001 - 08:04:28 EDT

Dear Members of the DIGOPP Working Group,

I hope I am not too late! I hope this modest input on a priority for G8 action can still be put forward.

Simply put, it is for the G8 governments to encourage developing country government and the international ODA leadership to allow technology to be applied in its most cost-effective form. This means ending the legal and regulatory protection of high cost legacy organizations, whether public state enterprises or newly privatized corporate organizations.

This means an end to the concept of maximizing government revenue from sale of licenses.

The goal should be expressed in terms of availability of access to ICT, the cost of ICT and the prices of ICT. Building technology infrastructure should be encouraged, and even subsidized by government, and certainly not be constrained by onerous law and regulation.

The aim of policy, law and regulation should be to allow the market to make Internet access and communications technology as low cost and as affordably priced in developing countries as it is in the G8 countries.

The same aim should pervade not only the developing country enabling environment of law and regulation, but also be applied within the international business community, the official international trade environment and among the ODA institutions.

Peter Burgess
_____________
President and CEO
AfriFund Management Limited
Posted by Peter Burgess at 12:29 AM



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