World Bank leaders, including then-Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva, applied “undue pressure” on staff to boost China’s ranking in the bank’s “Doing Business 2018” report, according to an independent investigation released Thursday. The report, prepared by law firm WilmerHale at the request of the bank’s ethics committee, raises concerns about China’s influence at the World Bank, and the judgment of Georgieva – now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, according to Reuters.
Georgieva said she disagreed “fundamentally with the findings and interpretations” of the report and had briefed the IMF’s executive board. The World Bank Group on Thursday canceled the entire “Doing Business” report on business climates, saying internal audits and the WilmerHale investigation had raised “ethical matters, including the conduct of former Board officials, as well as current and/or former Bank staff.” The US Treasury Department, which manages the dominant U.S. shareholdings in the IMF and the World Bank, said it was analyzing what it called the “serious findings.”
The WilmerHale report cited “direct and indirect pressure” from senior staff in Kim’s office to change the report’s methodology to boost China’s score, and said it likely occurred at his direction. It said Georgieva, and a key adviser, Simeon Djankov, had pressured staff to “make specific changes to China’s data points” and boost its ranking at a time when the bank was seeking China’s support for a big capital increase.
China’s ranking in the “Doing Business 2018” report, published in October 2017, rose seven places to 78th after the data methodology changes were made, compared with the initial draft report. The “Doing Business” report ranks countries based on their regulatory and legal environments, ease of business startups, financing, infrastructure, and other business climate measures.
The report comes nearly two years after Georgieva took over as IMF chief, shortly before the biggest global economic crisis in the Fund’s 76-year history, prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.