Scandal at the World Bank: Key Report Manipulated in Favor of China, Saudi Arabia

(Economic Policy Journal) Major global actors apparently were able to influence rankings of the flagship World Bank report. 

World Bank management pressured staff members to manipulate data used in its globally-used report on world business competitiveness, resulting in improvements in China’s and Saudi Arabia’s global rankings along with those of two other countries, the bank said after an internal investigation, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The bank has just released the outcome of its audit, which it opened this year after employees raised concerns through an internal survey about the integrity of data.

The bank said in August it was investigating irregularities affecting data for four countries: China, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The manipulated data were used in the 2017 report for China and in the 2019 report for the other three countries.

Notes The Journal:

The Doing Business report has become a premier international ranking of countries’ business environments, motivating governments around the world to jockey for higher positions to attract foreign businesses. The rankings are based on measures such as the ease of starting a business, tax policies and access to credit. 

The World Bank’s audit found that out of the 15 employees on the report’s production team, nine said they had been directly or indirectly pressured to manipulate data while preparing the reports issued in 2017 and 2019.

The employees said they didn’t initially escalate their concerns about the pressure they encountered due to fear of retaliation, according to the audit report.

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