South Africa: Why the IMF and World Bank Are Sliding Into Irrelevance

opinion

Admittedly, the two institutions are constrained by the world in which they operate. But their managements also have tended to shy away from embracing reform initiatives and making them their own.

This year, I didn't attend the October annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington, DC. Instead, I paid close attention to reports of the gathering and talked to people who were there whom I respect. What emerged is depressing for the well-being of the global economy. In particular, the prospect of continued weakness and fragmentation pressures will compound the challenges to the credibility and effectiveness of multilateral institutions.

The convening power of the IMF and the World Bank is unquestionably strong, if not unique. Every year, their annual meetings attract top economic and financial officials from more than 180 countries, as well as a far larger number of private-sector representatives. It's an exceptional global gathering, not only for officials to exchange views but also for corporate networking.

Over the last few years, the official meetings have increasingly been overshadowed by the ever-growing number of parallel events, notably diminishing the gathering's contribution to better policymaking. In fact, this year, I couldn't find a...

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