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ON ITS way to the Mekong river, the Nam Theun tributary flows uninterrupted across the Nakai plateau in Laos, the poorest country in South-East Asia. In March, the World Bank backed a proposal to dam it.

Hydroelectric turbines will generate up to 1,070 of electricity, 95% of which will be exported to neighbouring Thailand.

The Bank's most prominent aspect is the International Development Association (), which gives grants (

ON ITS way to the Mekong river, the Nam Theun tributary flows uninterrupted across the Nakai plateau in Laos, the poorest country in South-East Asia. In March, the World Bank backed a proposal to dam it.Hydroelectric turbines will generate up to 1,070 of electricity, 95% of which will be exported to neighbouring Thailand.The Bank's most prominent aspect is the International Development Association (), which gives grants ($1.7 billion last year) and soft loans (another $7.3 billion) to 81 of the world's poorest countries.As important, but less widely understood, is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (-credit rating, it can borrow cheaply on the capital markets, and lend, slightly less cheaply, to the aristocracy of the third world, such as China and Brazil.

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ON ITS way to the Mekong river, the Nam Theun tributary flows uninterrupted across the Nakai plateau in Laos, the poorest country in South-East Asia. In March, the World Bank backed a proposal to dam it.

Hydroelectric turbines will generate up to 1,070 of electricity, 95% of which will be exported to neighbouring Thailand.

The Bank's most prominent aspect is the International Development Association (), which gives grants ($1.7 billion last year) and soft loans (another $7.3 billion) to 81 of the world's poorest countries.

As important, but less widely understood, is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (-credit rating, it can borrow cheaply on the capital markets, and lend, slightly less cheaply, to the aristocracy of the third world, such as China and Brazil.

But, notes Mr Kavalsky, they treated corruption as “a given, a part of the environment to be factored into the calculation.

We did not treat it as a variable—something which we should make a concerted effort to address.” That changed with James Wolfensohn, Mr Wolfowitz's predecessor.

The Bank which Mr Wolfowitz now heads has as many sides as the Pentagon he has left.

.7 billion last year) and soft loans (another .3 billion) to 81 of the world's poorest countries.

As important, but less widely understood, is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (-credit rating, it can borrow cheaply on the capital markets, and lend, slightly less cheaply, to the aristocracy of the third world, such as China and Brazil.

But, notes Mr Kavalsky, they treated corruption as “a given, a part of the environment to be factored into the calculation.

We did not treat it as a variable—something which we should make a concerted effort to address.” That changed with James Wolfensohn, Mr Wolfowitz's predecessor.

The Bank which Mr Wolfowitz now heads has as many sides as the Pentagon he has left.

Dams in Laos notwithstanding, only 5% of the Bank's money went to the energy and mining sectors last year.Mr Wolfowitz may, in fact, discover much that is familiar to him at the Bank. But in its own bloodless idiom, the Bank now talks increasingly about politics, even if it does so in euphemisms such as “good governance”, “capacity building”, “voice” and “empowerment”.It is committed to understanding the political institutions of the countries in which it operates.The brazen corruption of the country's ruling Suharto clan irked them both.Mr Wolfowitz broached the issue, albeit politely, as he prepared to leave his ambassadorial post in the country in 1989.The project will set aside a nature reserve, where wildlife, from pangolin to reticulated python, will be defended by village gamekeepers, their salaries paid out of the dam's revenues.

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