Pushing Pro-Business Policy Change by Funding a Pro-Business Ratings System
By Johanna Lundahl, AGRA Watch Intern
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF) is a major donor to a World Bank affiliate known as Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA), a group that rates 40 developing countries on their policies that affect agriculture and agribusiness markets. The Oakland Institute, a partner of AGRA Watch, critiqued the connection in their April article, With a Little Help From Bill Gates, The World Bank Creates it’s Own Aid Conditionality. According to the EBA, it’s mission is “…identifying and monitoring regulations that negatively affect agriculture and agribusiness markets.” It frames these ratings as a way to encourage higher levels of food production, believing that this will combat world hunger, claiming that it’s encouraging countries to become more efficient, while “increasing market competitiveness and growth”. The Oakland Institute, as well as the UN disagree with this idea, understanding that hunger is not caused by insufficient food production.
The Oakland Institute previously reported that the EBA’s predecessor, the Doing Business index, caused an estimated 525 policy changes that had the intended effect of reducing or getting rid of developing countries’ regulations on protecting local economies, and environments.
During a panel at the World Bank’s Spring Meetings in Washington DC, Bill Gates pushed his view that the forward path for world development was to use the Gates Foundation’s expertise to encourage developing countries to adopt the “best practices” for business and investment, wielding the influence of development aid for the goal of “reforming the system”. Both Gates and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim ignored the views of the Global South, as expressed by their co-panelist, Raghuram Rajan, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who called for development efforts to support the policies that developing countries actually want.
The Gates Foundation is contributing to a very problematic reality here. The EBA encourages reduced government oversight of agriculture, and agribusiness, and Gates’ economic power results in his being treated as an “expert” in the field of development aid, entitling him to disregard the objections of his colleague from the Global South. This power difference between the development agencies, the corporations and wealthy individuals benefiting from programs like the EBA, versus the very countries this development is supposed to assist, results in a system that continuously disempowers developing countries instead of empowering them as AGRA Watch believes it should.