McGill faculty and students had the unique opportunity to hear World Bank President David Malpass speak just a week before the World Bank hosts its annual meetings where it will outline its major goals for the upcoming year. Malpass himself took on the role of President just six months ago. Not new to the world of international finance, Malpass previously held the position of the Under Secretary of the Treasury of International Affairs for two years after serving as the Senior Economic Advisor for the 2016 Trump Campaign.

Malpass began his address by highlighting the recent weakness in Europe’s economy and its reverberating effects on international development initiatives. He highlighted the Bank’s initiative to launch “country platforms” as a means of focusing on individualized solutions specific to national economic problems. In light of recent economic turmoil in Europe, most notably in connection to Brexit, and an overall slowing of global growth rates, Malpass emphasized the need to facilitate non-traditional donor involvement and private sector contributions to development projects. 

In addition to an increase in private investment, Malpass indicated that a major World Bank initiative will be to ensure the promotion of quality institutions and public policy on a country to country basis. “Development cannot be imposed from outside,” he argued and emphasized the importance of national leaders to ensure the implementation of strong and inclusive institutions. 

Regarding specific policy areas of focus, the World Bank will be especially focused on attaining gender economic equality and issues of environmental sustainability. Malpass highlighted the role of micro-loans through mobile money transfers in states such as Kenya that especially supports the integration of women in local economies. Critical to successful development, Malpass also promoted a continued effort toward female education initiatives as a means of increasing financial literacy and decreasing early pregnancy rates. 

Malpass focused heavily on the increasing issue of climate change and the necessity of sustainable development, both economically and environmentally. He noted the Bank’s increase in climate-related investments, now reaching $17.8 billion as well as another $200 billion committed over the course of 5 years to help countries individually address this issue. 

Environment-related policy goals will prove to be an interesting endeavour for the World Bank and its new president. Having been nominated to the World Bank presidency by the Trump Administration, and as a once outspoken skeptic of climate change, Malpass’ efforts to address such issues will be important to watch. Prior to his position as Under Secretary, Malpass served as the Senior Economic Advisor to the 2016 Trump campaign. He has faced previous criticism regarding economic projections, especially in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis where he worked for the failed investment firm Bear Sterns in the six years leading up to its collapse. 

While some raised concerns that Malpass would apply his loyalties to the Trump Administration and its agenda, specifically in regards to funding for China and the environment, he has continued to many of the prior World Bank policies addressing these issues thus far. In regards to whether Malpass can help lead the World Bank in successfully facilitating these ambitious initiatives, only time will tell. 

Edited by Catharina O’Donnell.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.

Image by Palácio do Planalto via Wikimedia Commons