While anti-globalisation forces may associate the World Bank with giant infrastructure projects of questionable environmental and cultural worth, part of the organisation has re-branded itself to look like the champion of the little guy. Last year, the World Bank created a small and medium enterprises (SME) department. Next month, it will test the potentially stormy waters of small-business development in China by launching the China Project Development Facility pilot project in Sichuan province. The SME department is overseen by the International Finance Corp, the World Bank's private investment arm. The director of the department, Harold Rosen, interviewed by telephone in Washington, conceded many believed they had effectively been set up to be the bank's 'good guys'. 'But it's not just a PR stunt, we're obviously focusing on really doing the right things and doing a lot more of them, including in bigger countries like China,' Mr Rosen said. 'Until now we've focused on the Cambodias, the Africas, now we're kind of going up-market a little bit to the middle development places with much bigger scale and populations. And we're trying to make sure we can spread all the benefits that the World Bank can bring to benefit the little guy.' Prime among these benefits will be up to US$4 million to be spent setting up a five-year pilot programme in Chengdu, out of an annual operating budget of US$45 million. The programme will involve everything from advising on bank transparency to helping Sichuan and Hong Kong SMEs form joint ventures. And the department is doing something else that has been tried with only mixed success in the 'donor-funded' business - getting people to pay for its services. Mr Rosen said it would take at least six to 12 months before the department could build up to the point where it could charge to cover a 'surprising level of our costs'. This had eventually been the case even in difficult countries such as Bosnia and Vietnam. 'The experience in other regions has been that you've got to show the value of your product for a short period first,' he said. 'So I'm pretty comfortable in China that even though people may think we're a development agency with pretty deep pockets with pretty rich friends, I think as long as they see the value of the service - and you're not too soft a touch about giving services away willingly - people will pay if they see value in service. 'One of the reasons I feel confident about China is Chinese folks are awfully smart people and if they see that advisory work will help them to pay their bank loan or strengthen their marketing, I'm pretty sure they'll pay for it.' Mr Rosen maintained the bank had chosen to work in the 80 million-strong province well before Beijing's 'Go West' push became 'politically hot'. The department knew they were the only ones who would help SMEs in the lesser-developed western provinces, whereas those in more affluent coastal provinces had better access to financial services and foreign investment. Issues of corporate governance and gender equity are also addressed in lending criteria. Asked what he would like to tell anti-globalisation protesters, Mr Rosen said part of the problem was that the bank had not been good at 'telling both sides of the story'. 'Obviously when we do something wrong or we're involved in a very contentious project - and I believe the Three Gorges [Dam] is one of them - and we are criticised, I don't think there's anything wrong with that,' he said. 'I think we're a public organisation and should be held up to very high standards.On the other hand, we do an awful lot of things right and some of the things we've done for small business and micro-business in regions more challenging than China are really something. And, being a bit immodest, an awful lot more effective that what we see in bilateral aid programmes.'