Main institutions of macroeconomics
The World Bank, originally known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, was also founded in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference, at the same time as the IMF. As its original name indicates, the institution was initially designed to assist the reconstruction of European countries that were destroyed during World War II. Soon the name changed to the World Bank. Beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, it started to focus on the ‘development’ of countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.
Similar to the IMF, the World Bank is also owned and directed by the governments of member countries. Both institutions have their headquarters in Washington DC, USA. However, the main difference between these two institutions is that the World Bank is primarily a development institution, hence it funds specific development projects (primarily in the Global South). On the other hand, the IMF functions as a cooperative institution with a common pool of financial resources. For example, all the member countries can borrow from the IMF when they have a balance of payments problem, but the World Bank does not lend to wealthy countries.
The primary aim of the World Bank is to provide financial assistance (in the form of loans, credits, or grants) for various development projects and policies of the countries in the Global South. During the 1950s and 1960s, these projects were often related to infrastructure, such as for electric power and transportation. The projects funded by the bank have been increasingly diversified, including projects in agriculture, small businesses, and education.
Recently, the World Bank has recognised what the feminist economists and activists had talked about for decades: that these infrastructure projects have differentiated impacts for women versus men, and that these differentiated impacts have been overlooked for decades. Recently, the experts of the World Bank came to recognise these differentiated impacts of both gaps in infrastructure, as well as the projects undertaken for addressing these gaps. “Women need to have a voice in setting priorities in the design and the operation of infrastructure if it is to have the desired development impact.”1Wellenstein, A., & Gill, M. (28 August 2019). Making Infrastructure Work for Both Women and Men. World Bank Blogs. In assessing these projects from an intersectional feminist lens, it is important to analyse: which groups of women are included in this decision-making process, who benefits from the project, and who bears the greatest risks and burdens.
For more information on the impact of the World Bank on gender equality and feminist responses, see the Bretton Wood Project’s The World Bank and Gender Equality: Development Policy Financing (2019) and Learning Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic: The World Bank’s macroeconomic policies and women’s rights (2021).
- 1Wellenstein, A., & Gill, M. (28 August 2019). Making Infrastructure Work for Both Women and Men. World Bank Blogs.