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Reforming Multilateral Development Banks: India’s Vision at the G20 Leaders’ Summit



G20 Leaders' Summit


As India takes the helm of the G20 presidency, the nation’s agenda underscores the imperative need to reform and strengthen multilateral development banks (MDBs) to align with evolving geopolitical dynamics and the ascension of the Global South. The G20 Leaders’ Summit, scheduled for September 9 and 10 in New Delhi, is set to be a pivotal moment for this vision, with expectations of support from world leaders, including US President Joe Biden. This article delves into India’s stance on MDB reforms and the global challenges they aim to address.

The Call for MDB Reforms

Multilateral development banks, epitomized by institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, were established nearly eight decades ago in the aftermath of World War II. While they have played a pivotal role in fostering global economic stability and development, the world’s economic and financial landscape has transformed significantly since then. Recognizing the necessity for change, India, as the G20 host, is championing the cause of reforming these institutions.

The Independent Expert Group on MDB reforms, chaired by Lawrence Summers, President Emeritus of Harvard University, and NK Singh, Chairperson of the Fifteenth Finance Commission of India, has underscored the urgency of this reform agenda. The world is grappling with critical issues such as sustainable development goals (SDGs) and climate change, both of which demand immediate action and substantial funding. To meet these challenges, an estimated additional annual expenditure of nearly $3 trillion by 2030 is required. This comprises $1.8 trillion for climate action and $1.2 trillion for achieving other SDGs.

The Shrinking Role of MDBs

Despite the escalating magnitude of global issues, MDBs, as a system, have been contracting. In 2019, their gross disbursements amounted to less than 0.3% of the recipient country GDP (excluding China), which is half the level observed in 1990 (0.55%). The report warns that in the current climate of rising interest rates, net transfers from MDBs may even become negative. This shrinking role exacerbates the widening gap between developed and developing nations, making the need for reform even more critical.

India’s Vision for Reform

India’s agenda for MDB reform hinges on several key principles:

  1. Equitable Representation: India advocates for a more inclusive governance structure within MDBs that reflects the contemporary global landscape. This entails equitable representation of countries from the Global South, acknowledging their significant economic contributions.
  2. Adaptation to Geopolitical Shifts: Recognizing the changing dynamics of international relations, India emphasizes the importance of MDBs adapting to geopolitical shifts, particularly the rise of emerging economies.
  3. Addressing Global Challenges: MDBs must pivot towards addressing pressing global challenges like climate change, inequality, and sustainable development. This entails increased funding for initiatives aligned with the SDGs and climate action.
  4. Efficient Resource Allocation: India advocates for optimizing the allocation of resources to maximize their impact, ensuring that MDBs efficiently deploy funds to projects that contribute meaningfully to global development.

Challenges on the Road to Reform

While India’s vision for reforming MDBs is comprehensive and forward-looking, it faces several challenges:

  1. Resistance to Change: Reforms in large, established institutions often encounter resistance from entrenched interests and institutional inertia. Convincing all member nations to agree on comprehensive reforms will be a daunting task.
  2. Complex Decision-Making: MDBs typically operate based on consensus decision-making, which can be slow and cumbersome. Achieving consensus on substantial reforms may require substantial negotiation and diplomacy.
  3. Resource Mobilization: To meet the ambitious funding requirements for global challenges, MDBs may need to mobilize significant additional resources. Convincing member nations to contribute more can be a complex endeavor.
  4. Balancing Priorities: Balancing the diverse priorities of member nations while pursuing meaningful reforms will be a delicate act of diplomacy.


As India takes center stage at the G20 Leaders’ Summit, the call for reforming MDBs stands as a testament to the nation’s commitment to global development and stability. While this reform process may be lengthy and face significant challenges, it represents a crucial step in addressing the pressing issues of our time, from climate change to inequality. India’s vision for equitable representation, adaptation to geopolitical shifts, and addressing global challenges serves as a blueprint for a more inclusive and effective multilateral development banking system. The world watches with anticipation as leaders gather in New Delhi to chart the course toward a more equitable and sustainable future.

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