Speeches & Transcripts

Remarks by World Bank Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati at Transparency International US Annual Integrity Award Ceremony Honoring James D. Wolfensohn

November 3, 2014

World Bank Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati Transparency International US Annual Integrity Award Ceremony Honoring James D. Wolfensohn Washington, D.C., United States

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Alan. And thanks to Transparency International for hosting this wonderful event.

First and foremost I want to congratulate Jim for this award that he deserves so much. 

What some in this room may not know about Jim is that he broke one of the strongest taboos in the World Bank. And with this I don’t mean becoming the President of the organization despite the fact that he was born in Australia.

No, what I am talking about is the fact that he dared to utter the C-word.

When Jim took the stage at the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in 1996 and declared that the “cancer of corruption” must be fought very much like we fight poverty, hunger, and disease he questioned conventional wisdom.

Many, both inside and outside the institution, felt that corruption wasn’t an economic but a political issue, better left to governments.

But his argument was persuasive and beautifully simple:

Because corruption diverts resources from the poor to the rich, because it increases the cost of running businesses, because it distorts public expenditures and deters foreign investors, we need to fight it.

Jim also said that corruption is a major barrier to sound and equitable development.

His words put transparency, accountability, and the fight against corruption once and for all on the Bank’s development agenda.

I know, almost 20 years later it may be difficult to appreciate what an important moment this was.

But for me, Jim’s words have a very personal meaning.

World Bank teams used to meet the members of the Suharto regime without ever mentioning corruption.  

That changed after he delivered his famous speech.

When I became a finance minister in Indonesia, the youngest and first female in my country’s history, I felt very honored. But I also felt sad, knowing that corruption was deeply entrenched in my country and that the work ahead wasn’t going to be easy.

I know from experience that fighting corruption is tough. Progress is slow. And there are enough people out there who don’t want you to succeed.

It takes a personal toll, it even affects families.

So it was good to know that there are people out there, in the World Bank and organizations like Transparency International, who were providing guidance and helping us to force change.

Today, corruption remains a big problem in Indonesia. But we have the Corruption Eradication Commission, an independent institution that has the power to investigate and prosecute cases. We have a watchful media, and we have a strong civil society scrutinizing the powerful.

Jim, you should take credit for this progress.

Your leadership in making corruption an economic issue doesn’t give anybody, any excuse, any longer to look the other way when corrupt officials enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.

Since you declared corruption the enemy of development, the Bank has launched more than 600 anti-corruption programs in nearly 100 countries. Furthermore, we sanctioned over 560 firms and individuals for misconduct including corruption, collusion, fraud and coercive practices. 

Jim, you may not have ended corruption, but you made it a lot harder to be corrupt.