Asia NZ Foundation
John Austin has recently completed a two year term representing New Zealand, Australia, Korea and eight Pacific countries as an Executive Director on the Board of the World Bank. He has been involved in global efforts to combat poverty at an interesting time in the Bank’s history.
Prior to his appointment at the World Bank, Mr Austin had a career in senior positions in banking including six years as an alternate Executive Director of the Asian Development Bank located in Manila, Philippines. He was formerly also Director of the MBA Programme at Canterbury University. His work has included wide contact with Asian countries over the last 10 years.
Last year was the sixtieth anniversary of the World Bank and there have been criticisms that the scope of the institution has become too broad and unwieldy. There are also challenges to the legitimacy of the Bank due to the system of representation where the donor countries have the greatest say despite the focus of the Bank’s work on the poor countries. A recent agreement by the G8 to wipe the debts of the poorest members of the Bank has raised questions around the continuing role of the World Bank as a bank and what is the most effective way to deliver assistance to low income countries. Meanwhile demand for World Bank financing from middle income countries has been declining. Under the previous President, James Wolfensohn, the Bank redefined its role to include operating as a “Knowledge Bank”. After ten years at the helm, James Wolfensohn has been replaced by Paul Wolfowitz, former US Deputy Secretary of Defence. What will be the future role of the World Bank under new leadership? How can the multilateral character of the Bank be reinforced while still maintaining an effective organisation? What changes are required to deliver on the expectations of the international community that the Bank play a leading role in global efforts to “make poverty history”?