Probe Faults World Bank Over China Ranking

An internal investigation finds management pressured staff to alter data in the bank’s Doing Business report to placate China.
Matthew HellerSeptember 17, 2021

Top World Bank officials including then-Chief Executive Kristalina Georgieva unduly pressured staff to alter data in the bank’s Doing Business report to placate China, a major shareholder, according to an internal investigation.

Investigators from the law firm Wilmer Hale said Georgieva, who is now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, played a “key role” in the changes, which resulted in China’s ranking in the 2018 edition of the report being raised seven places to 78.

After Georgieva thanked the senior director of the bank’s research arm for doing his “bit for multilateralism,” he “interpreted her comment to mean not angering China during the sensitive capital increase negotiations affecting the bank’s future,” the report said.

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In response to the report, the World Bank said Thursday it had decided to discontinue Doing Business. “Going forward, we will be working on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate,” it stated.

The bank had ordered the review after data irregularities on Doing Business 2018 and 2020 were reported internally in June 2020.

“The findings of the investigation … raised questions about the judgment of Ms. Georgieva during her time at the World Bank and underscored the pressure that the bank has been under to accommodate China, its third-largest shareholder after the United States and Japan,” The New York Times said.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Doing Business has been “a flagship publication” for the World Bank, with the annual release attracting media coverage around the world and countries jockeying to improve their ranking by making policy changes.

According to the Wilmer Hale probe, Georgieva became “directly involved in efforts to improve China’s ranking” in October 2017, at one point chastising the country director for “mismanaging the bank’s relationship with China and failing to appreciate the importance of the Doing Business report to the country.”

Ultimately, Doing Business team leaders identified three data points that could be altered to raise China’s score, unlocked the report’s underlying data tables, and executed the changes, the investigative report said

Georgieva said in a statement that she had not acted inappropriately. “I disagree fundamentally with the findings and interpretations,” she said.