Office of the President -- George D. Woods (President, 1963 - 1968)

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Office of the President -- George D. Woods (President, 1963 - 1968)

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George David Woods (1901-1982) was born in Boston in 1901. He entered the banking industry immediately upon completing high school and only attended night school at his employers' urging. During this early period, Woods made his talents evident and was promoted rapidly. By the 1940s he was employed by the First Boston Corporation, one of the largest investment banking firms in the United States; by 1951 he was chairman of its board. Woods had considerable involvement with the World Bank Group prior to becoming its President. First Boston was one of two banking firms to manage the Bank's early bond issues. Soon after Woods began participating in missions for the Bank to southeast Asia where he assisted in the development of lending programs and explored the possibility of establishing private development finance companies. Woods was also involved in the Suez Canal settlement mediated by the Bank, and the International Finance Corporation's (IFC) international advisory committee.

Woods was named World Bank Group president in January 1963. Woods is often given credit for continuing the Bank's evolution from a more straightforward financial institution to a development institution. During his tenure, the Bank began analyzing the broader factors that hindered growth in developing countries, such as trade barriers, external debt, lack of diversification, weak institutions, shortages of skills, and ineffective economic and financial policies. As a result of this expansion in focus, more economists were hired by theBank and their importance was increased. Specifically, Woods appointed Irving Friedman, formerly of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as the Economic Adviser to the President.

In addition to emphasizing the role of economists, Woods looked to strengthen the younger professional staff in the institution. The Bank typically recruited staff in mid-career, but in 1963 the Junior Professional Program (later the Young Professional Program, or YPP) was instituted as a means of recruiting graduates from leading universities.

Under Woods, the Bank continued to expand its lending in the sectors of agriculture and education. Both of these areas were approached with a focus on early intervention, meaning involvement in activities that had a more direct impact, such as farm credit, livestock production, seed improvement, and training and extension work in the agriculture sector secondary and vocational schools in the education sector. Woods also increased focus on the industry sector. This created an increased role for the IFC and involved the transfer of industrial projects from the Bank to the IFC.

Woods promoted the concept of aid coordination to better identify foreign assistance from various sources. This involved the creation of the first Bank-organized consultative groups. It also led to a closer relationship with the United Nations and its specialized agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO). The Bank also served as executive agency for many UN Development Programme (UNDP)-financed studies.

During Woods' tenure the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) was established. Its purpose was to calm the fears of foreign investors who were hesitant about investing in developing countries. ICSID's primary functions include the resolution of investment disputes and providing assurance for foreign private investors.

One of Woods' final accomplishments was the instigation of the "Grand Assize" of experts called together to examine the state of development and to propose to political leaders and the public at large the steps necessary for maintaining progress. The commission was headed by Lester Pearson, former Prime Minister of Canada, and came into effect only after Woods' departure from the Bank.

The organization of the Bank did not change considerably during Woods' tenure as President. One significant move made by Woods was the formalization of the President's Council. Chaired by thePresident, it consisted of senior staff who served closest to Woods, including: Vice Presidents Burke Knapp, Geoffrey Wilson, Simon Aldewereld (appointed in 1965), and Mohammad Shoaib (who replaced Wilson in 1966); Economic Adviser to the President Irving Friedman; General Counsel Aron Broches; and Richard Demuth, who had served in various capacities during his time at the Bank but who headed the Development Services Department (DSD) under Woods. The Council met daily to advise the President on matters related to the management of the Bank.

Woods served a single term as President, departing the Bank in March 1968.


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