The Bank exists to provide member countries with finance for development and poverty reduction. Commencing operations on June 25, 1946, it approved its first loan on May 9, 1947 ($250m to France for postwar reconstruction, in real terms the largest loan issued by the Bank to date).
Together with five affiliated agencies created between 1956 and 1988, the Bank is part of the World Bank group. The Bank's headquarters in Washington, D.C are presently headed by president (1995-2005) James D. Wolfensohn. The Bank also serves as of several Implementing Agencies for the Globel Environment Facility (GEF).
Though repeatedly relied upon by impoverished governments around the world as a contributor of development finance, the Bank has been criticised by opponents of globalization for undermining the national sovereignty of recipient countries through its pursuit of economic liberalisation.
One of the big issues is that hefty loans provided to dictators and military juntas that have only been used to enrich a very small part of the population are still to be repaid by the entire population after having freed themselves from their yoke.
Two former staff of the World Bank have recently left to create a new, more distributed approach to international development called GlobalGiving (formerly DevelopmentSpace).
List of presidents