Survey Finds World Bank Executives Pushed Employees To Improve China’s And Saudi Arabia Rankings In High-Profile Reports

The bank tasked law firm WilmerHale with the investigation.

Investigators found that then-CEO Kristalina Georgieva pressured the Doing Business team in 2017 to “change the methodology of the report” or “make specific changes” to the data points in order to ” improve China’s ranking in the 2018 edition.

This came after Chinese government officials repeatedly voiced concerns to her and then World Bank President Jim Yong Kim over the country’s ranking, according to the 16-page survey released by WilmerHale.

At the time, Georgieva was in the midst of negotiations over a capital raise campaign in which China “was to play a key role,” the investigation found.

Georgieva was “directly involved” in improving China’s ranking, according to the independent inquiry, which indicated that during a meeting, the then CEO “chided the national director of the era of the Bank for mismanaging the Bank’s relations with China and failing to understand the importance of the Doing Business report to the country. ”

Doing Business team leaders ultimately upped China’s ranking in the survey from seven places to 78 by identifying data points they could change, including giving the nation “more credit” for a Chinese law on secure transactions, according to the WilmerHale report.

In October 2017, the investigation found that Kim’s assistants also asked the investigation team to simulate how China’s final score might change if data from Taiwan and Hong Kong were incorporated into existing data from the country. The WilmerHale report states that Doing Business team leaders “believed the concern was directly from President Kim.”

Georgieva, who is now managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said in a statement that she disagreed “fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of the data irregularities investigation as it relates to my role. in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. 2018 “and briefed the IMF Executive Board on this matter.

Kim has yet to respond to an email from CNN seeking comment.

The IMF board has asked the ethics committee to review the WilmerHale investigation, according to a source familiar with the matter. The ethics committee will then report to the board of directors with its assessment.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “Ms. Georgieva released a statement on the official IMF website. I refer you to the competent authorities for more information. We also noted that the World Bank recently released a statement on the suspension of the Doing Business report. The Chinese government attaches great importance to the efforts of Doing Business to improve the business environment, which is evident to all. We hope that the World Bank will take the facts as the basis, the rules as the criterion, follow the professional, objective, fair and transparent principles, conduct a thorough investigation of the relevant issues in strict accordance with the internal review procedures, in order to better safeguard the professionalism and credibility of the Doing Business report and the credibility of the World Bank reputation of itself and of its member countries.

WilmerHale’s investigation also revealed irregularities with Saudi Arabia’s data in the Doing Business 2020 report. Saudi government officials have expressed “dissatisfaction” with their country’s ranking in the 2019 edition, in particular with the investigation team’s inability to recognize what officials saw as “the country’s successful reforms,” ​​according to the survey.

As a result, the bank’s senior executives, including one of the founders of the Doing Business report, Simeon Djankov, asked the investigation team to “find a way to change the data” so that Jordan does not rank. not first on its so-called “List of the best“ improvers. ”The team eventually added points in several categories to Saudi Arabia so that the country replaced Jordan in first place, according to the results of the investigation.

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Djankov said the request to change Saudi Arabia’s data came from two senior World Bank officials, one of whom was previously President Kim’s chief of staff and was involved in China’s data changes in the 2018 edition of Doing Business, the survey revealed.

In a statement released Thursday, the World Bank announced that it would end the “Doing Business” report. “The World Bank Group remains firmly committed to advancing the role of the private sector in development and helping governments design the regulatory environment that supports it. In the future, we will work on a new approach to assess the business and investment climate. “, adds the press release.

CNN has contacted the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington DC and the Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry for comment and is awaiting a response.

CNN has also reached out to Simeon Djankov and the Peterson Institute for International Economics where he works as a senior researcher for comment.

– Jennifer Hauser, Pamela Boykoff, Betsy Klein and the Beijing office of CNN contributed reporting.

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