Global Policy Forum

World Bank Revamps Voting Structure




April 26, 2010

In a significant development emerging economies India, China and Brazil have been given more voting rights in the way the World Bank is run and how its money is spent.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund approved a slight shift of voting shares in favour of developing countries, while agreeing to raise more money for global aid.

Under the new voting structure announced on Sunday, some emerging economies will have a greater say in how the 186-nation bank distributes aid.

This represents a total shift of 4.59 per cent to developing and transition countries since 2008, the IMF and the World Bank said in a joint statement after the meeting.

As a result, India's voting power has increased from 2.77 per cent to 2.91 per cent while China has emerged as the biggest beneficiary, its rights increasing from 2.77 per cent to 4.42 per cent.

The shift places India at the seventh biggest place after the US (15.85 per cent), Japan (6.84 per cent), China, Germany (4 per cent), France (3.75 per cent) and the UK (3.75 per cent).

South Africa disappointed

Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, expressed disappointment with the outcome.

"We are disappointed that the process has resulted in dilution of the voting power of some sub-Saharan African countries, in spite of the collective acknowledgment of the
need to protect them," he said.

"We strongly believe that more should have been done to prevent such dilutions."

Gordhan said South Africa was looking for "more robust outcomes in future".

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, Manu Bhaskaran, chief executive of Centennial Asia, a Singapore-based advisory firm working with major emerging economies, said the new voting structure will not make any difference to China's leverage within the two financial institutions.

"Compared to yesterday and today, there is not that much more that China can do. This simply recognises an already acknowledged fact which is that China's clout in world bodies, multilateral institutions and so on, is rising," he said.

"But in the real material sense the decision doesn't really make that much difference.

"We do, however, have a fundamental shift in the balance of global economic and political power going on and it's good that there is some kind of recognition of that."

'Significant step'

Robert Zoellick, the World Bank's president, said, he hoped shareholders will review the approach in 2015.

"The change in voting-power helps us better reflect the realities of a new multi-polar global economy where developing countries are now key global players," he said.

"This change in voting share, giving developing countries over 47 per cent, is a significant step."

Membership of the financial institution gives certain voting rights that are the same for all countries, but there are additional votes which depend on a country's financial contributions to the organisation.

Zoellick said at a time when multilateral agreements between developed and developing countries have proved elusive, this accord is all the more significant.

Istanbul commitment

The increase fulfils the Development Committee commitment in Istanbul in October 2009 to generate a significant increase of at least three percentage points in Developing and Transition Countries (DTCs) voting power.

"We, in calculating this, looked at size of the world economy, using purchasing power but also exchange rate measures, but also, as a development institution, the contribution to development including the contribution to IDA, our fund for the poorest."

The governments also approved over $90bn in extra money for the World Bank's various arms that provide aid to member countries.

Zoellick said the shift in voting powers was designed to try to reflect past contributions, citing the example of Japan that has been "a very gracious contributor."

Under the changes, China will become the bank's third-largest shareholder, ahead of Germany, after the United States and Japan. Countries like Brazil, India, Indonesia and Vietnam will also have greater representation.



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