World Bank bonuses raise eyebrows amid austerity drive

The World Bank has awarded bonuses to at least four senior officials as it pursues a cost-cutting restructuring, raising concerns among staff, several sources told AFP on Wednesday.

A key figure involved in the anti-poverty lender’s makeover, chief financial officer Bertrand Badre, received a $94,000 bonus for fiscal year 2014, in addition to his net annual salary of about $380,000, said Bank spokesman David Theis.

Until last year, the World Bank could only pay bonuses to officials stationed abroad but it changed its internal rules in July 2013 to include those based at its Washington headquarters.

“The World Bank needs to attract and retain senior management of high caliber, and on rare occasions we extend a ‘scarce skills premium’ for highly technical or key managerial positions,” Theis said.

According to the spokesman, Badre, a French national who left his job as CFO of French bank Societe Generale to join the World Bank as finance managing director and CFO in March 2013, “has deep management experience in some of the largest financial institutions in Europe.”

Under his leadership at the 188-nation institution, “we have been able to nearly double our financial firepower. This increased financial flexibility will allow us to help meet some of the great and pressing needs in the developing world.”

A person close to the World Bank said that at least four directors have received bonuses that were renewing concerns about the management of the global development lender.

“This information is very surprising when it is known that the Bank is in the process of cutting $400 million from its budget,” said Nicolas Mombrial, head of the anti-poverty nonprofit organization Oxfam, in Washington.

The World Bank’s major reform and restructuring program under way under President Jim Yong Kim aims to reduce spending by $400 million by 2016, in a total budget of $5.0 billion. It has not ruled out job cuts to reach that goal.

“The bonuses to senior bank staff, and the reported disquiet among staff, re-emphasize civil society concerns about the efficacy of president Jim Kim’s strategy and the re-structuring that followed,” said the Bretton Woods Project, an NGO, in an email to AFP.

In June, the World Bank’s staff association expressed its concerns about the reorganization in a letter to Kim.

“We don’t know what our work will consist of or whether and how we will work better in the new structure. We don’t know where we will sit. And, we don’t know if we will have jobs,” they wrote in the letter obtained by AFP.

The World Bank indicated to AFP that Badre declined to comment on the subject.