The World Bank Group aims to slash project approval times from an average of 19 months to 12 months by the end of 2024, its President said at the World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai.

In an interview during the plenary session on Monday, Ajay Banga pointed out that the Bank took 19 months on average to approve projects, from initial discussions with the countries to sign-off by its board.

While there could be valid reasons for approvals taking more than a couple of months, 19 months was "way too long," he noted.

"What I am aiming for is to get down to 12 months by the end of the year," he said, adding that the Bank has already managed to reduce the approval time to 17 months.

Banga took over as President of the World Bank Group in June 2023.

"I don't know if I will get [it down] to 12 or 13 or 14 months, but I will get to a much lower number than 19 months. Development delayed is development denied, and we have to change this," he said.

He said the Bank is also addressing constraints on the part of receiving countries in absorbing projects and getting approvals.

"The second task is to invest in the capacity of those countries so that the 9 to 10 months they take to get approvals and sometimes, the years it takes to complete a project, can be brought down."

The Bank has roped in its employees who are subject matter experts to help build capacity in these countries, he said.

He said cooperation between the Group entities, namely IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), IDA (International Development Association), IFC (International Financial Corporation) and MIGA (Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency) is another focus area so that a client doesn't have to go three places for a single project.

"Starting in July [2024], in 20 countries, we are putting the management teams together and creating a single window to the entire World Bank Group. If that does well, we will do it in more places," he stated.

(Writing by Anoop Menon; Editing by Dennis Daniel)


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