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World Bank officials pressured staff to improve China’s ranking, survey finds

WASHINGTON – World Bank executives, including then-chief executive Kristalina Georgieva, exerted “undue pressure” on staff to improve 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 ruling of Georgieva – now chief executive of the bank. International Monetary Fund – and then World Bank President Jim Yong. Kim.

Georgieva said she disagreed “fundamentally with the findings and interpretations” of the report and had informed the IMF’s board of directors.

The World Bank Group on Thursday quashed the entire “Doing Business” report on the business climate, saying internal audits and WilmerHale’s investigation had raised “ethical issues, including the conduct of former officers of the Board of Directors, as well as current and / or former staff of the Bank. “

The US Treasury Department, which manages dominant US holdings in the IMF and World Bank, said it was analyzing what it called “serious findings.”

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WilmerHale’s report cited “direct and indirect pressure” from senior executives in Kim’s office to change the report’s methodology to boost China’s score, and said it likely happened under its direction.

He said Georgieva and a key adviser, Simeon Djankov, had pressured staff to “make specific changes to China’s data points” and improve its ranking at a time when the bank sought support from China for a significant capital increase.

Kim did not respond to a request for comment. Djankov could not be immediately reached.

China’s ranking in the “Doing Business 2018” report, released in October 2017, dropped from seven places to 78th place after changes to the data methodology, compared to the initial draft report.

The Doing Business report ranks countries according to their regulatory and legal environment, ease of starting a business, financing, infrastructure and other business climate measures.

The WilmerHale report also cited pressure related to the data used to determine the rankings of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Azerbaijan in the ‘Doing Business 2020’ report released in 2019, but found no evidence. that members of the office of the president of the World Bank or the board of directors were involved in these changes.

Saudi Arabia climbed 30 places to rank 62nd in the “Doing Business 2020” report.

“In the future, we will work on a new approach to assess the business and investment climate,” the World Bank said.

WilmerHale’s report said the push to improve China’s ranking came at a time when the bank’s management was “consumed with sensitive negotiations” over a major capital raise and China’s disappointment over a score. below expectations.

Georgieva told WilmerHale investigators that “multilateralism was at stake and the Bank would have ‘very serious problems’ if the campaign missed its targets,” the report said.

Nonprofit group Oxfam hailed the bank’s decision to end the Doing Business report, saying it has long encouraged governments to reduce labor regulations and corporate taxes in order to improve their place in classification.

Former World Bank chief economist Paul Romer first expressed concerns about the integrity of the ‘Doing Business’ report in 2018, saying Chile’s ranking may have been biased against the socialist president of the time, Michelle Bachelet. Romer left the bank shortly after his comments.