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Widespread corruption is a symptom that the state is functioning poorly. Ineffective states can retard and misdirect economic growth. International aid and lending organizations have begun to focus on corruption control as part of a general rethinking of their role in the post-Cold War world. Both James Wolfensohn, the President of the World Bank (Bank), and Michel Camdessus, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have put the control of corruption on their institutions' agendas.

Nevertheless, some argue that corruption is a political issue and is, therefore, outside the purview of the World Bank. Corruption, however, has fundamental economic impacts and is thus an appropriate area for World Bank and IMF concern. Bribes represent illegal user fees, taxes, or access charges paid to public agents. These payments influence economic decisions ranging from the size and character of public investment projects to the level of compliance with business regulations. It is difficult to see how a concern for the economic costs of corruption can be responsibly excluded from World Bank lending criteria.

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