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World Bank cost-cutting finance chief declines bonus

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Bertrand Badre, the chief financial officer who has pushed much of the cost-cutting at the bank, plans to turn down his bonus, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced to applause during a packed "town hall" forum for bank employees on Tuesday, two sources told Reuters - PHOTO: SPH

[WASHINGTON] The World Bank's finance chief said he would decline a bonus of US$94,000 in a move that appeared aimed at quelling discontent among staff who thought it out of line given planned layoffs and budget cuts.

Bertrand Badre, the chief financial officer who has pushed much of the cost-cutting at the bank, plans to turn down his bonus, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced to applause during a packed "town hall" forum for bank employees on Tuesday, two sources told Reuters.

A World Bank spokesman confirmed the information.

The poverty-fighting institution has been cutting costs as part of a massive reorganisation that Kim hopes will make it more efficient and effective.

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But the changes in the bank's organization, its internal funding measures and its focus have demoralised employees, who fret about budget and job cuts, unclear lines of command and a general lack of information about the changes.

In the meeting with staff on Tuesday, Kim emphasised the progress the bank has made in recent months, including committing US$400 million to fight the Ebola outbreak and boosting the institution's ability to lend another US$100 billion to middle-income countries over the next decade.

But he said he needed to spend more time listening to staff concerns, according to a source who attended the meeting. "We are implementing fundamental changes to our development delivery model to become fit for purpose to meet today's most pressing challenges," World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email. "Of course staff unease is natural and understandable in any large organisation undergoing such a large-scale realignment. "We believe we will come out of this process as a stronger, more unified organisation, better positioned to achieve our mission," Theis said.

Kim's meeting with staff on Tuesday came after a 15-minute work "stoppage" employees organised last week, and a gathering of employees on Tuesday morning in the bank's large glass-topped atrium.

The protests come as the world's finance ministers and central bankers start to gather in Washington for the Bank and International Monetary Fund's semi-annual meetings this weekend. "In response to a request voiced by many staff today in the atrium, I'll be holding a townhall in the Preston Auditorium today at 4 pm to hear your concerns," Kim told staff in an email on Tuesday obtained by Reuters. "Let's talk." Last week, Kim posted a schedule of events where staff could voice concerns, including a meeting with the World Bank Staff Association on Monday and a traditional townhall with employees after the bank's fall meetings on Oct 15.

The World Bank wants to slash US$400 million from its budget by the middle of 2017 to free up money for development projects, and has said it would likely need to lay off some employees.

It has declined to say exactly how many jobs will be cut, as the so-called "Expenditure Review" is still ongoing. - Reuters

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