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The World Bank and the Gods of Lending

Steve Berkman
The World Bank and the Gods of Lending
ISBN: 978-1-56549-259-2
2008/299 pages/LC: 2008010159
A Kumarian Press Book
"In this blistering exposé, former World Bank employee Berkman demonstrates how the World Bank’s mission to 'alleviate poverty' has been derailed by corruption, a 'bloated bureaucracy' and mismanagement.... His criticisms and prescriptions are clear and well-supported by scores of photocopies of internal memos and project documents.... The book is a fascinating firsthand account of the bank's failures ... a valuable and important read."—Publishers Weekly

"Compelling and refreshingly direct. What World Bank officials typically refer to as 'leakage,' Berkman names theft, embezzlement, and corruption. Highly recommended."—Choice

"A long awaited expose of gross mismanagement and cover-ups…. [Berkman] demands a fundamental overhaul of the Bank's management and proposes realistic measures to curb corruption in its lending program."—Gerald E. Caiden, University of Southern California

"With this book we have a critical perspective only an insider can provide. It is a passionate, informed, and devastating first-hand account from the frontlines of World Bank operations. Students, development professionals, and especially policymakers in Washington should read it."—Jeffrey A. Winters, Northwestern University


Looking at the realities of the World Bank's loan programs in the developing world, Steve Berkman finds nothing but mismanagement and hypocrisy: decades of assistance without any significant improvement in the lives of the poor; billions loaned for improving governance, health care, and education with little to show for it; and donor funds given to dysfunctional government institutions or officials with a history of looting national treasuries.

Berkman takes the reader inside several project fraud investigations to expose the ease with which funds can be stolen from the Bank's portfolio—and the degree to which these thefts are ignored. He also presents compelling evidence of deceptive reporting and lack of due diligence as billions of dollars are wasted every year on corrupt and ill-conceived programs. Then, going beyond the gloomy picture, he proposes practical ways that the Bank can make meaningful changes in the interests of fulfilling its mission to alleviate poverty.


Steve Berkman joined the World Bank in 1983. After retiring in 1995, he was called back from 1998 to 2002 to assist with the establishment of an Anti-Corruption and Fraud Investigation Unit, during which time he was lead investigator on a number of corruption cases in Africa and Latin America.


  • Introduction: Broken Promises and the Gods of Lending.
  • Managing for Mediocrity.
  • The Economist Managers.
  • Confucius and the Bank.
  • Feeding the Beast.
  • Groping in the Dark.
  • And Darkness Was upon the Face of the Implementers.
  • A Very Special Account.
  • Playing with the Books: "C" Is for Corruption.
  • As the Train Left the Station.
  • A New Regime.
  • The Potemkin Village.
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts.
  • Alhaji the Car Dealer.
  • Bigger than Wal-mart.
  • Lamin Tells All.
  • In the Eye of the Beholder.
  • And the Dance Begins.
  • The Fifty-Year Dilemma.
  • The Cost of Corruption.
  • So Easy to Steal.
  • The Essence of Knowledge.
  • Reporting the Truth.
  • Money Can't Buy Happiness.
  • Taming the Gods of Lending.