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Want Bang for Your Buck? Support the UN

Want Bang for Your Buck? Support the UN
Photograph by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Facebook purchased mobile messaging company WhatsApp for $19 billion. One way to put that in perspective is to note that it’s a little more than what the World Bank doles out annually in market-rate loans. Another way to think about it, however, is that $19 billion is only a little more than one-tenth of Facebook’s market cap. So perhaps what the comparison best illustrates isn’t the enormity of the WhatsApp deal but the tiny financial scale of the World Bank.

And it isn’t just the bank—the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations are pretty small in terms of financial size as well. Yet we rely on them to limit the fallout from global economic crises, sustain development, and preserve global peace. There’s even some evidence these multilateral institutions do make a marginal difference in these roles, which suggests they are an immense bargain. And that’s something worth thinking about as Congress weighs a bill that would provide a small increase to the IMF’s resources.