What is development’s public enemy number 1?

“Every dollar that a corrupt official or a corrupt business person puts in their pocket is a dollar stolen from a pregnant woman who needs health care,” Kim said during a panel.

“In the developing world, corruption is public enemy No. 1.”

That is the head of the World Bank saying things that don’t make sense to me. Hat tip to @kopalo.

Corruption is a big problem. But I would say it is closer to enemy number 12 than number 1. Here is why.

To be fair, if I were World Bank president, probably my smartest political move would be to go to a conference every week on a different X and tell them that X is public enemy number 1, and then bask in their self-congratulatory applause.

Seriously, I’d like to hear the argument that corruption is more detrimental to development than civil wars, HIV/AIDS, coups, over-centralization of Presidential power and the absence of public accountability, and possibly the dearth of secondary and tertiary education, or absence of credit and insurance markets. And on and on.

As impossible as any of these things are to fix, they could well be more straightforward for the Bank than fixing corruption.

If I had to pick the one way that Kim could put dollars into the pockets of a pregnant woman who needs health care tomorrow, I have a suggestion.

Yes, corruption hurts far more people, but Kim has even more leverage over that than corruption, so the impact of his actions on human welfare would probably be greater.