The World Bank just said it would provide $12bn dollars to help countries respond to the coronavirus. Those funds, it said, would go to help developing countries cope with outbreaks and provide any other assistance within its scope.
But what is the World Bank anyway and what is its scope?
Started in 1944, the World Bank Group, was created in order to help countries rebuild their infrastructure and economies after the devastation of WWII. It initially invested in countries in Europe, helping to rebuild bridges, dams, and other infrastructure projects that had been destroyed during the war. In ensuing years it has moved to assist, as well, developing nations in the African continent, South America, and Eastern Europe and Asia.
Though it is a part of the United Nations (UN) it is not accountable to the UN but instead to a board of governors made up of representatives from all 180 member countries, usually the country’s finance minister. The bank, which is actually called the World Bank Group, is made up of five separate institutions including the International Development Association whose primary mission is to help developing countries shrink the gap between poor and wealthier nations. Another institution is the International Finance Corporation was formed to create opportunities for people in developing nations to help them escape poverty, among the stated goals of the organization are also to improve healthcare and education as well as boost markets in developing countries.
The bank’s biggest priority since its inception has been to help shrink the gap between rich and poor worldwide. And that happens many ways from microfinance – small loans to individuals in poor countries aimed and helping them get themselves out of poverty by building their own small business; to international projects to boost internet access; to the pledge recently made to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.