World Bank: How it Compromises Economic Development by Promoting a Population Control Agenda

By Andrew Essig | January 15, 2007

Andrew Essig’s paper analyzes the evolution of the World Bank’s official policy with regards to population control programs.  Since 1968 when former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara became the fifth president of the World Bank, the bank embraced the then popular theory that economic growth was correlated with low fertility.  During his thirteen years as its president, the bank adopted population recommendations popularly referred to as “the Berelson Report.”  The recommendations included the provision of material incentives and disincentives aimed at the poor to reduce their fertility.  Since McNamara’s tenure, the bank has emerged as one of the largest contributors to population programs worldwide with loans amounting to $3 billion in this area.

The paper goes on describe the bank’s involvement in the controversial Safe Motherhood Initiative and its programs in various countries.  The paper also contains a very good overview of World Bank’s origins and governance structure, which serves as a useful background to the reader.  The author recommends that the World Bank shift more of its resources out of population control programs and toward its mandates regarding economic development. Finally, the paper calls for greater democratic accountability of the institution to the citizens of donor states.

Andrew M. Essig is Associate Professor of Political Science at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania with a Ph.D. in political science from Pennsylvania State University at University Park.

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