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The World Bank and Private Sector Development: Is "Doing Business" an Extension of the Structural Adjustment Programme or a Departure?

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Private sector development lies at the heart of the World Bank's Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), but there is no consensus within the Bank on its own role in fostering competitiveness within the private sectors of their client countries. Should the Bank be a global referee of trade and competitiveness, acting as a conscientious watchdog of reform movements focusing on improving the business enabling environment? Or should it be a diligent practitioner working to develop public goods necessary for industrial development? What exactly is the dividing line between the market-distorting measures of "picking winners," a residual from the early SAP era, and creating "public goods" now deemed necessary for sustainable private sector development? This paper situates this debate within the organizational transformation taking place in the private sector development wing of the World Bank. It argues that this institutional paradox can offer important insights into the way the World Bank has historically carved out its space within global economic governance. Its deliberations involving the enterprise development facilities set up in far-flung countries that experiment with new collaboration modalities with its donors and development stakeholders can tell us a lot more about what can be reformed within the Bank and what cannot. More importantly, it gives us important insights as to what must be transformed for the international financial institutions to offer any real hope to their clients in a new global economic order.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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