By G9ija

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, has denied influencing a report in China’s favour when she worked at the World Bank.

Georgieva served as chief executive officer of World Bank between January 2017 and September 2019 before moving to IMF.

The World Bank, on Thursday, discontinued the publication of the annual ‘Doing Business’ report that ranked countries according to the favourability of their business and investment climates after a review of data irregularities in 2018 and 2020.

The multinational lender said audits raised ethical concerns involving former board officials and staff.

“World Bank Group research informs the actions of policymakers, helps countries make better-informed decisions, and allows stakeholders to measure economic and social improvements more accurately,” the bank said.

“After reviewing all the information available to date on Doing Business, including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report the Bank released today [investigation findings of the 2018 and 2020 irregularities], World Bank Group management has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report.”

The development lender said it would work on a new approach to assess countries’ business and investment climates.

In its findings, World Bank cited Georgieva as having put staff under pressure to alter data related to China to boost its score.

“The changes to China’s data in Doing Business 2018 appear to be the product of two distinct types of pressure applied by bank leadership on the Doing Business team,” it said in the report.

It added that there was “pressure applied by CEO Georgieva and her advisor, (Simeon) Djankov, to make specific changes to China’s data points to increase its ranking at precisely the same time the country was expected to play a key role in the bank’s capital increase campaign.”

China’s ranking in the 2018 report should have been seven places lower at position 78 instead of 85. The 2018 Doing Business report was released in October 2017.

The 2018 report ranked Nigerian on the 146th spot, a spot from its 145-rank in 2017.

Citing the ranking, Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget and national planning, had said the federal government would work towards growing the nation’s economy at a similar pace with China’s.

The Doing Business report measures the regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it.

The probe was produced by the law firm WilmerHale, which was retained by the World Bank executive board’s ethics committee, the body responsible for ethical matters involving board officials.

The findings were shared with the World Bank’s executive directors on Wednesday, and the board authorised their release.

But Georgieva said that she “fundamentally” disagreed with the findings conducted by an outside law firm engaged by the World Bank — that she had applied pressure on the bank’s staff to boost China’s ranking.

“I disagree fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of the Investigation of Data Irregularities as it relates to my role in the World Bank’s Doing Business report of 2018,” Georgieva said in a statement issued by the IMF.

She added that she had met with the IMF’s executive board to discuss the matter.