How the World Bank erred
The World Bank recently issued its 32nd issue of the World Bank Atlas 2000 which covers a selection of development indicators, presented in such a way to allow comparison between over 200 countries. The report also rates those countries according to their level of achievements in various economic and social aspects.
As a matter of course, World Bank reports are supposed to be accurate and credible so that one can depend on them to understand the situation and position of various countries of the world, and their degrees of progress in various fields such as population, economy, environment and the quality of life. The World Bank is supposed to be the ultimate authority on such data. But is it?
Looking into the figures and indicators concerning Jordan as quoted in the above mentioned World Bank Atlas, we come by many mistakes, especially when it comes to the size of the Jordanian economy measured by gross national product (GNP) in millions of dollars, and the per capita share of GNP in current dollars as well as in purchasing power parity (PPP).
The World Bank Atlas has used GNP, which is different from gross domestic product (GDP). It claims that Jordan's GNP in 1998 was $5,252 million. The fact is that GNP that year stood at JD5,174.2 million or the equivalent of $7,300 million, some 40 percent above the figure suggested by the World Bank! No wonder knowledgeable readers of the report in Jordan were shocked.
How did the World Bank make such a big mistake? Can its researchers possibly have failed to translate JDs into dollars and thus reduced GNP by around 30 percent in the process?
This error, which should have been obvious to any researcher or economist with the slightest knowledge of Jordan, led the report into another more harmful and damaging mistake, claiming that the per capita share of GNP in 1998 was $1,150. Per capita GNP that year was JD1,134, or the equivalent of $1,600. This share dropped a little bit in the following years due to the fact that population growth outstripped economic growth.
Due to the mistake in calculating per capita income in Jordan, the country was placed in position No. 128 instead of 112 among the 206 countries covered by the report — that is if the figures and indicators of other countries were not similarly mistaken, a big `if' in the circumstances. After taking into account the PPP of the local currency, Jordan's rating as produced by the tables of the Atlas is 139 instead of 116 when the mistake is corrected.
Beside the mistakes in GNP, per capita income and rating, the World Bank committed other unforgivable mistakes in lowering the ratios of telephones, the population's access to drinkable water, female enrolment in schools and other vital indicators presented by the Atlas in a way that not only defies the truth but also damages the image of Jordan and understates its economic and social achievement.
The World Bank should know better. It is not acceptable for a great international institution such as the World Bank, with full access to information and data, to commit mistakes of this magnitude. To add insult to injury, the experts of the World Bank told a seminar of Jordanian economic editors held in Amman last week, that economic growth in Jordan this year may not exceed two per cent.
The Ministry of Planning should not keep silent concerning these blunders, especially as they take place at a time when Jordan is trying hard to project a positive picture of its economic and social progress and show determination to push forward, particularly in areas of human development.
We need only quote US ambassador, William Burns' words to the Young Presidents Organization: “No country in this region is doing more right now to help itself than Jordan, and no country is moving more quickly or more courageously to put itself in a position to compete effectively in the new global economy.” — ( Jordan Times )
By Fahed Al Fanek
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)