Privatising Development? The International Finance Corporation's Impact Upon Development in Asia

Project: Research

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The primary objective of the proposed research objective is a critical study (see Cox 1981: 129-30; 2004) of the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and its underappreciated role in reshaping mainstream development agendas in Asia. The regional focus is firstly justified on the basis that Asia is a region that traditionally pursueddirigiste(heterodox) policy sets, in stark contrast to the key modalities deployed and developed by the IFC. Given the significant tension between past policy choices in the region and those of the IFC, the region makes a good case for testing issues of resistance and or adoption of policy agendas. Secondly, the region is now at the very centre of both global value chains and the reconfiguration of development practice through institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This allows observation of the impact and influence of IFC’s agenda on novel lending instruments and globally-important patterns of growth. Third, the region is also a significant component within the IFC’s portfolio, receiving by far the largest disbursed investments of all regions. Finally, the PI has done extensive research in and on the region over the last fifteen years, which has allowed the accrual of extensive knowledge and networks to build off. This research has been published in myriad outputs, including with Cambridge University Press and in leading journals such asGlobalizations, Antipode, Development and Change, Journal of Contemporary Asia and Asian Studies Review. This earlier research has had an important impact in both academic and policy spheres, leading to one sole-authored book, four edited volumes, four special issues of journals, many citations (532 to date) and being used by non-governmental organisations within the region, such as the Indonesian Forum on International Development (which translated, published and circulated four key outputs). Despite the importance of the IFC in terms of funding and influence, very little work to date has mapped out the Corporation’s precise modalities and the reasons behind the rapid ascendancy of these. Moreover, even less work has been done to analyse the impacts of the IFC’s work and the politics of this.Given the above, the proposed project seeks to explainthe form, rise and impact(ideational, normative, political and material) of the Corporation’s work in order to make a contribution towards various important scholarly and policy debates. The project deploys a critical political economy framework grounded in social conflict theory, concentrating on the battles between material and ideational interests under globalisation and the policy and other imperatives attached to this. The proposed study includes five thematically and sectorally-selected case studies to cover the breadth of the Corporation’s work across different jurisdictions. The project has both scholarly and policy implications for how contemporary development policy should be appraised and understood, including in relation to important development agendas such as China’s BRI. 


Project number9042781
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/20 → …