FEW will be aware that the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) is an enthusiastic contributor to the World Bank, the UN-affiliated organisation with a budget of £66.9billion which is made up of five institutions.

Four years ago DfID committed £3.3billion to one of the arms – the International Development Association (IDA) – and also holds shares in the other four. This DfID contribution covers the IDA’s current period – called the eighteenth replenishment – from 2017-2020. It makes up almost 13 per cent of the IDA’s budget for this period and is more than any other country has committed, and more than the contribution from the US and more than France, Germany and Italy combined.

The question of whether the World Bank needs the money or whether it is spent responsibly and ethically is rarely asked.

For the record, the average salary of a World Bank employee is £99,300 and when its last President, Jim Kim, stepped down in February he left with a £80,200 bonus. 

Perhaps it is just as well that the current CEO of the World Bank, Kristalina Georgieva, who began her tenure after managing the EU’s £129billion budget, has managed to secure the largest funding increase for it in its history.

That we are contributing at all to this global quango is perhaps bad enough. But it is made infuriatingly worse by the abuse of what is meant to be its overriding purpose, to provide low-interest loans to help improve health, education and infrastructure in developing countries. A striking example of this which has recently come to light is a commitment of £82.37million to China for its ‘project schools‘ in Xinjiang province, the region where over one million Uighur Muslims are incarcerated in what are, in effect, concentration camps.

These persecuted people are being cruelly held against their will on the sole basis of their religion. Abused by the Chinese authorities in the camps, they are forced to give DNA samples and renounce their faith. 

The prisoners’ plight is largely ignored by rest of the world. They have not been able even to rely on help from the UN, though this organisation rarely holds back when it comes to criticising the West or Israel.

So far the UN has failed miserably to hold China to account for its inhuman treatment of the Uighur Muslims. 

DfID may no longer send aid directly to China, yet it seems it is still doing so indirectly via the World Bank. As well as an abuser of human rights, China is also an aggressive economic coloniser. Its Belt and Road Initiative, a cute slogan for an insidious programme designed to make developing countries dependent on them, is also supported by the World Bank. 

Yet China has a far larger GDP than most other countries, including Britain. So why they need aid from the World Bank for what amounts to economic imperialism is hard to comprehend. Exactly what kind of discussions take place at the World Bank that sideline suffering innocents in favour of investing in such a morally devoid and authoritarian country?

It is not just Muslims who are being maltreated by the Chinese authorities. Open Doors lists China at 27 on their world watch list of 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most rife.

Can DfID prove that that the billions it gives to the World Bank are not being used to fund this appalling abuse of human rights? Can it prove that use of British funds does not contravene their claim to help the less fortunate in our world? If it can’t, will it contemplate pulling its funding from the World Bank?

DfID is a public body and has a responsibility to ensure our money is spent wisely, and not opaquely. It should be held accountable. If it can’t honour this responsibility, it has outlived its purpose.

Alok Sharma, the new International Development Secretary, has many questions he needs to put – and to answer.

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