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Dates of existence
The Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM) was created in 1997 as part of President Wolfensohn's reorganization of the World Bank. The reorganization's objective was to strike a better balance between "country focus" and "sectoral excellence". It was also motivated by the recognition that the Bank's development programs were excessively driven by a culture of lending. The need to increase attention towards client needs and the quality of results was addressed by the reorganization.
To facilitate sharing of expertise and knowledge, the Bank established networks that linked Bank-wide communities of staff working in the same field across organizational boundaries and with external partners. The networks were intended to link staff working in the same sectors throughout the Bank, whether the staff was located in the Regional Vice Presidencies sectoral departments, Independent Evaluation Group (IEG, formerly the Operations Evaluation Group [OED]), World Bank Institute (WBI), or Development Economics (DEC). The objectives and responsibilities of the networks were many: reduce fragmentation; increase information flow; set priorities; manage quality; run the information system; consolidate external partnerships; vet staff promotions; and disseminate best practices. The work programs of network staff focused on:
- Global knowledge - putting the best development knowledge in the hands of Bank task teams; ensuring that the knowledge base was accessible to external clients; and contributing to the growth of the knowledge base.
- Enhanced skills - developing and providing content to training courses; establishing professional and technical standards for professional development.
- Shared strategies - assisting regional and central units to develop a common sector agenda, and ensuring that skills are effectively deployed across the entire network. Network leadership assumed responsibility for global programs, sector strategy development and evaluation, strategic partnerships, and learning and dissemination.
- Best teams and best practices - improving the Bank's flexibility and mobility by building stronger task teams and delivering higher quality products.
- Institutional initiatives providing substantial support for new Bank-wide initiatives, such as social development, rural development, financial sector, anti-corruption, human resources, and knowledge partnerships.
PREM was one of the first of three networks to be created in 1997; the others were the Human Development Network (HDN) and the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Network (ESSD). Soon after, in 1997-98, the Private Sector and Infrastructure Network (PSI) was created. In 2000-01, the Operation Policy and Strategy Department became the Operations Policy and Country Services Network (OPCS). In 2003-04, the PSI became the Financial and Private Sector Development Network (FPSD) and in 2007 ESSD was combined with Infrastructure to form the Sustainable Development Network (SDN).
PREM is organized in the same way as the other Bank networks. Each network is headed by a vice president and head of network. Under the vice president is a network council that oversees the entire network. The council is composed of the top network managers from each Region and is responsible for setting the overall agenda for the network and for promoting effective deployment of skills across network units. It deliberates on issues relevant to the functions and objectives of the network - e.g., strategy; people; knowledge; quality/business process; and external partnerships.
At the time of its creation, the PREM Network absorbed department units, functions, and staff from different areas of the Bank. In December 1996, the Human Capital Development Vice-Presidency (HCD, formerly the Human Resources Development and Operations Policy Vice Presidency [HRO) was terminated, and its subordinate unit Poverty and Social Policy Department (PSP) was temporarily relocated under the oversight of Masood Ahmed. At the time, Ahmed was the International Economic Department Director (IECDR), but was transitioning into the role as PREM Vice President. The PSP temporarily became the Poverty, Gender, and Public Sector Management (PGP) during this time. The various divisions of PGP were then mapped into the newly created PREM network and would be officially moved into PREM when it was launched in July of 1997. IEC was terminated as part of the re-organization of the DEC Vice-Presidency. The IEC staff and functions were either absorbed into existing DEC units, or absorbed into the PREM Network. As a consequence, the former staff of PSP and IEC made up a large portion of PREM in its original form.
PREM contained four sector departments at its creation: Economic Policy Division (PRMEP); Gender Division (PRMGE); Poverty Division (PRMPO); and Public Sector Management Division (PRMPS). Each Sector Department has its own Board, with representatives drawn from the Regions as well as from the network itself. The Sector Boards are accountable to the network council and are supported by a secretariat.
Sectors departments were subsequently closed, absorbed, or renamed as PREM evolved. In 2000, PREM added a sector devoted solely to the joint IMF and World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative (PRMHP). The Poverty Reduction Strategy Initiative (PRMPR) was also added in 2000. The Gender Division (PRMGE) was renamed the Gender and Development Division in 2000. The Poverty Division (PRMPO) and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Initiative (PRMPR) were both closed in June 2001, and replaced by the Poverty Reduction Group (PRMPR) in July 2001. In 2002, PREM added the International Trade Department (PRMTR). The PRMPS was renamed the Public Sector Governance Department in October 2003, but retained its acronym. PRMHP closed in June 2004 and ongoing HIPC projects fell under the newly formed Debt Department (PRMDE) in July 2004. Around 2005, the Economic Policy and Debt Department (PRMED) was created, and appears to have replaced the PRMDE. As of 2014, the PREM Network lists the following thematic areas of concentration for sector departments: Poverty Reduction and Equity; Economic Policy and Debt; Public Sector Governance; International Trade; and Gender and Development.