Ruth Ben-Artzi. 2016. Regional development banks
in comparison: Banking strategies versus development
goals (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press)
Published online: 3 January 2017
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
Multilateral development banks (MDBs) have been an object of particular—verging on
obsessive—interest for scholars of international political economy. There is something
about this variety of international organization that is positively catnip for a select sub-
set of academics, yours truly most definitely included.
As such it was with considerable excitement that I opened the cover of Regional
Development Banks in Comparison: Banking Strategies versus Development Goals by
Ruth Ben-Artzi. The title alone suggests that the book can help fill two sizeable gaps in
the existing literature on MDBs.
First, the vast majority of academic work has focused mainly on the World Bank,
despite the fact that around 20 MDBs exist in the world today, some of which lend
more than the World Bank in their countries of operation and one (the European
Investment Bank) that substantially larger than the World Bank. A growing number
of scholars have in recent years begun turning their attention to these other MDBs (see
for example Gutner 2002,Kilby2011, and Park and Strand 2015, among others), but
substantial research remains to be done, particularly comparative work, and this book
can help fill the gap.
Second, far too little attention has been paid to the inherent tensions between the last
two words in MDB—Bdevelopment^ and Bbank.^ All too often, scholars simply treat
MDBs as just another aid organization, and merrily go about testing hypotheses related
to shareholder influence, development need, tensions between Bprinciples^
(shareholders) and Bagents^ (MDB staff), without understanding the fundamental
financial model of MDBs and how that model might influence MDB behavior. Many
times finances do not bear directly on a specific MDB research question, but it is a core
contextual issue that must always be taken into account, along with for example the
interests of powerful MDB shareholders.
Rev Int Organ (2017) 12:485–489
* Christopher Humphrey
Universitat Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland