Pakistan Newspaper Reports on Nonpublic World Bank Document

9 August 2005

A newspaper in Pakistan has written about a nonpublic World Bank report evaluating ten years of World Bank activities in Pakistan and shedding light on the process of preparing such major evaluations.

The evaluation report is generally unfavorable to the World Bank, according to the Business Recorder, which wrote about the conclusions in a July 16 editorial. The report itself was sent to the Pakistani government sometime this summer for review.

The fairly unusual leak highlights how the Bank and the governments cooperate in the preparation of such evaluations, with the government, but not the public, seeing copies of the Bank draft report.

The government’s review of the Bank staff’s work apparently is still under way. The report by the Bank’s Operations Evaluation Department culminates a 12-month examination process and is basically considered a finished product by the Bank staff.

The OED review of the World Bank’s operations in Pakistan from 1993 to 2003 is a significant effort, and the resulting product is considered a major report, called a Country Assistance Evaluation.

According to the July 16, 2005, Business Recorder article, "The Lesson To Learn From World Bank Evaluation Report": "The World Bank has recently completed an evaluation of its interventions in Pakistan over a ten-year period (1993-2003). Its conclusion is that Pakistan performed poorly in a number of areas, including poverty, education, social sector performance, agriculture and natural resource management, rural development, power sector, taxes, public sector management and governance."

The article continued: "This list is exhaustive and challenges the contention of the present government that it has made a significant positive impact on the economy as a consequence of its own reforms that date back to late 1999 and early 2000."

World Bank officials in Washington said the report was not ready to be released. One official was unaware of the apparent leak.

The report will be made public eventually under the Bank disclosure policy. CAE’s are released after approval by a key Bank board committee, the Committee on Development Effectiveness. When the final report is issued, as have all 70 written since 1995, it is accompanied by a summary of the board discussion. The government may issue a separate statement, although only a few ever have. In one rare case, involving Romania, the Bank put out its own response to the Romanian comment. (Disclosed materials are available on the Bank Web site.)

The reports vary in size (India’s was 65 pages, Russia’s 152 pages) and usually take 6-8 months to complete, but will take longer for some countries. They are intended to provide lessons for future World Bank policies.

The Pakistan report has taken more time–the official start as announced July 8, 2004–because Pakistan is "one of the Bank’s larger clients," a World Bank staffer explained.

The CAE process begins when the Bank prepares an "Approach Paper," which is sent to the board for approval in the absence of objections, usually with pro forma consent. The Approach Paper spells out the scope of the evaluation, sometimes called the terms of reference. (The seven-page Approach Paper for the Pakistan CAE is available on the Bank Web site.)

The Approach Paper is not discussed in advance with the government, but most of them are "very similar," an official explained. The near-final version could have been seen by Pakistan’s board representative in Washington.

An evaluation team of about five persons from Bank headquarters is sent to the field, where it meets with the Bank’s "country team," as it carries out its evaluation. Meetings are held with government officials and with persons outside of government

After the team’s report goes though internal quality control, it is "finished from our perspective," a Bank official explained. This draft is then sent to the government in an official correspondence for review. The report is not released to the public at that time. Nor is the version sent to the government released even after the process is concluded. The government is usually given 30 to 60 days to comment.

One Bank official said disclosure of the report in the media was inconsistent with Bank policy. He preferred not to discuss what harm could arise from disclosure, but concluded: "it’s not helpful."

The Business Recorder concludes its article like this: "It is unfortunate that the government has gone into a defence mode vis-a-vis this report. It would have been more appropriate for it to learn from the past and ensure that during the next decade it does impact on poverty and the quality of people’s lives."

The World Bank Web site allows persons to sign up to be notified when the next CAEs, or a particular CAE, are released.

By Toby McIntosh

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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