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Reforming Multilateral Development Banks

  • 28 Jun 2023
  • 10 min read

This editorial is based on Transforming the Banks which was published in The Indian Express on 27/06/2023. It talks about multilateral development banks and challenges associated with them.

For Prelims: World Bank Group, Asian Development Bank, Sustainable Development Goals

For Mains: Role of Multilateral Development Banks in Addressing Poverty and Inequality, Gender Equality, Human Rights

Multilateral development banks (MDBs) are financial institutions that provide loans, grants and technical assistance to developing countries for their economic and social development. MDBs include the World Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank the Inter-American Development Bank, etc. MDBs have been instrumental in supporting the development of both low-income and middle-income countries (LICs and MICs) by addressing issues such as poverty reduction, infrastructure development, human capital formation, etc.

However, MDBs are also facing several challenges and limitations that affect their relevance and performance in the changing global context. Therefore, there is a need to reform and strengthen MDBs to make them more responsive and effective in addressing the emerging challenges and opportunities in the digital space.

What is the Need for Reforming MDBs?

  • The current legal and institutional framework of MDBs is outdated and inadequate to deal with the rapid changes and complexities of the digital ecosystem.
    • The current framework was established after World War II to address the post-war reconstruction and development needs of the less developed countries.
    • The current framework does not reflect the contemporary realities and aspirations of the developing countries, especially those of the Global South.
  • To Enhance their Relevance and Performance in Supporting Developing Countries:
    • The current operation strategies and business models of MDBs are not optimal for meeting the diverse and evolving needs of developing countries in pursuing inclusive and sustainable development.
    • The current strategies and models do not leverage the full potential of MDBs to mobilize resources and partnerships, foster policy dialogue and alignment, monitor and evaluate progress, and address gaps and challenges.
    • The current strategies and models do not diversify their portfolio of instruments and modalities to provide tailored and flexible solutions for different contexts and sectors.
    • The current strategies and models do not support innovation and technology transfer for development solutions, especially for adaptation and resilience.
  • To Improve their Governance and Accountability:
    • The current governance structure of MDBs is not representative and responsive to the needs and interests of their shareholders and stakeholders.
    • The current structure does not reflect the changing balance of power and influence among developed and developing countries in the global economic order.
    • The current structure does not ensure effective participation and voice of developing countries in decision-making processes.
    • The current structure does not ensure transparency and disclosure of MDBs’ operations and impacts.

What are the Challenges for Reforming MDBs?

  • Adapting to Emerging Global Challenges:
    • MDBs need to adapt their operations and financing mechanisms to address emerging global challenges such as pandemics, conflicts, and transboundary issues.
    • They should have the flexibility to respond to rapidly changing circumstances and provide timely support to affected countries.
  • Resource Constraints:
    • MDBs face resource constraints in meeting the increasing demands for development financing.
    • The current funding levels may not be sufficient to address the scale of challenges faced by developing countries, particularly in the areas of climate change mitigation, adaptation, and infrastructure development.
  • Procedural Constraints:
    • MDBs often face criticism for being trapped in bureaucratic procedures, which can slow down project implementation and decision-making.
  • Mobilizing Private Sector Investments:
    • MDBs face challenges in mobilizing private sector investments for development projects.
    • They need to create an enabling environment that attracts private capital by addressing risks and providing financial incentives for private sector engagement.
  • Addressing Climate Change:
    • MDBs face the challenges of climate change and support sustainable development initiatives.
    • This requires incorporating climate considerations into their policies, strategies, and project financing decisions.

What are the Implications for India?

  • India, as a leader and partner of the Global South, has a stake and a role in shaping the reforms of MDBs to make them more responsive and effective in addressing these issues and opportunities.
  • India is also a major borrower and beneficiary of MDBs, especially the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank.
    • India has received loans and grants from these institutions for various sectors such as infrastructure, health, education, agriculture, etc.
  • India is also a contributor and shareholder of MDBs.
    • India has provided capital and resources to these institutions to support their operations and lending capacity.
    • India has also participated in their governance and decision-making processes.

What is the Role of MDBs in Addressing Poverty and Inequality?

  • Supporting the Implementation of the SDGs:
    • The SDGs(sustainable development goals) are a set of 17 global goals that aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all.
    • MDBs can help developing countries align their national policies and strategies with the SDGs, mobilize resources and partnerships, monitor and evaluate progress, and address gaps and challenges.
    • MDBs can also support cross-cutting issues such as gender equality, human rights, governance, etc., that are essential for achieving the SDGs.
  • Provide Concessional Finance and Grants:
    • Providing concessional finance and grants to
      • Low-income countries (LICs) and fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) face multiple challenges such as low growth, high debt, weak institutions, social unrest, violence, etc., that hinder their development prospects and increase their vulnerability to shocks.
    • MDBs can provide concessional loans and grants to these countries to help them meet their basic needs, build resilience, promote stability, and foster economic transformation.
    • MDBs can also leverage their convening power and influence to mobilize additional support from other donors and partners for LICs and FCS.
  • Promoting Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity:
    • Middle-income countries (MICs) are a diverse group of countries that have achieved significant progress in reducing poverty but still face persistent inequalities and social exclusion.
    • MDBs can help MICs address these challenges by supporting policies and programs that enhance productivity, competitiveness, innovation, diversification, etc., as well as those that improve access to quality education, health, social protection, infrastructure, etc., for all segments of society.
    • MDBs can also help MICs tackle emerging issues such as climate change, urbanization, digitalization, etc., that have implications for their development trajectories.


  • Reforming MDBs is a crucial and timely initiative that holds out the promise of not only upgrading the current legal regime but also redefining the contours of how technology is regulated in India.
  • Reforming MDBs is likely to have far-reaching implications for the digital ecosystem and its stakeholders in terms of opportunities and challenges.
  • Reforming MDBs requires extensive consultations and deliberations among various stakeholders to ensure that it is inclusive, participatory and future proof.
  • India has a key role and responsibility in reforming MDBs to make them more relevant and effective for the development of the Global South.

Drishti Mains Question:

What are the main opportunities and challenges for multilateral development banks to mobilize resources of a country and partnerships for development finance and assistance?

UPSC Civil Services Examination Previous Year’s Question (PYQs)


Q. With reference to Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), consider the following statements: (2019)

  1. AIIB has more than 80 member nations.
  2. India is the largest shareholder in AIIB.
  3. AIIB does not have any members from outside Asia.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only 
(c) 1 and 3 only 
(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (a)


Q. India has recently signed to become a founding member of New Development Bank (NDB) and also the Asian Infrastructure Bank (AIIB). How will the role of the two Banks be different? Discuss the strategic significance of these two Banks for India. (2012)

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