How to prevent corruption – select based on merit, says World Bank…

Given common assumptions that the US will select the next President and there will be no merit-based selection process, I thought I’d check out what organisations that try to combat corruption thought of this idea.

Where better place to start than the institution that’s just launching a new governance and anti-corruption strategy, the same one that publishes worldwide governance indicators. Yes, it’s the World Bank. Continue reading

Timely history on international appointments – US likes to throw its weight around

Last week, an IPS article provides a timely history of how the US likes to throw its weight around in international appointments. It review some ongoing appointments at UN agencies and relates stories from the leadership of Boutros Boutros-Ghali at the UN Secretariat.From IPS:

Ertharin Cousin, a U.S. national, will be the new executive director in an organisation [World Food Programme] which in recent years has been dominated by the United States, the last two heads being Catherine Bertini and Josette Sheeran. Continue reading

The race begins

As speculation grows about the timing of Bob Zoellick’s departure announcement, it’s time to reflect on the process, and on the qualifications for his successor, independently of speculation on good or bad potential candidates.

In June 2007 the Executive Directors of the World Bank should have set in place their own oversight mechanisms, and procedures for evaluating Zoellick’s performance, and that of his management team. They didn’t do that.

A way to start would have been to get the a baseline measure of his skills as a manager and leader, from what he had done before in his long years in the US government, and his brief stints at Goldman Sachs and Fannie Mae. They didn’t do that.

They might also have agreed on a private annual feedback process from Board members, based on input from staff, senior colleagues, and clients on their interactions with him. They didn’t do that.

In 2007 very few anticipated the Great Recession, and its impact on both rich and poor countries, but they could have asked Bob Zoellick for his vision of the future of the World Bank Group, and his ideas for leading the organization and its stakeholders–including the Executive Directors–toward that vision.  They didn’t do that.

As Robert Zoellick prepares to move on, maybe, to use IDA tagline’s, “now is the time.”

I am a pessimist about leadership change at the IFIs

I am a pessimist about leadership change at the IFIs. I don’t know what is required to actually get change. At the IMF all the forms and papers were lined up to have a genuine change, but the emerging market economies could not get their act together; the Mexican Carstens bravely stood as a candidate garnering a full 2 votes; the Russians nominated a thief from one of their neighboring countries.

And of course the French marched out an impeccable candidate without a moment’s hesitation. I don’t think CSOs can do much more. On the World Bank Side, the US is so irritated with the behavior of the Europeans in the lead up to the 2010 summit in Korea—their absolute refusal to let go of even one of their 8 chairs, and then NO country supported the US in being in-the-face of the Europeans, that the US has decided no other country is willing to go to the line for major reforms in the IFIs, so the US needs to keep its veto at the IMF and in the WB IDA.

I wish it were not so, but it seems realpolitik continues to trump normative considerations. Despite my firmest desires, my bet is the US will continue to hold the WB Presidency. So, I will support efforts, while scanning the US horizon for an honorable and good person to lead the WB.

Clinton fights back?

Just heard from a very senior and well placed individual that Hilary Clinton is still campaigning for the job, but – get this – is also still keeping the option of running for US President next time round on the table. So that’d be 2 years max of Hilary… can this really be true?  Answers on a comment please….

Larry Summers? You have to be joking.

Although a certain former first lady has been constantly mooted as Zoellick’s successor it seems that Obama may be also considering another candidate. Larry Summers is former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, and head of the National Economics Council under Obama, and is currently a professor at Harvard. He is also rather notorious for his part in the deregulation of the finance sector, brazen comments on the ‘scientific aptitude’ of women, and for advocating increased pollution in developing countries as a cost-cutting exercise.

Needless to say he is what is politely called a ‘divisive’ figure. After a brief period in which commentators seemed to be momentarily stupefied by the news, Summer’s candidacy has now provoked a rapid, and incredulous, response from the political blogosphere.

Felix Salmon at Reuters pleads:

Please, Barack, don’t do it! … giving him the World Bank job would be a disaster.

Before adding that:

giving the job to any American is a bad idea. We’re long past the point at which it makes any sense at all that the president of the World Bank should always be an American.

David Dayen at popular blog Fire Dog Lake likens Summers to a zombie, and seconds Salmon’s view that he should not be appointed to the role:

You just can’t get rid of zombie Larry Summers. He can get drummed out of Harvard. He can see the deregulation policies he pushed in the Clinton Administration lead to a financial meltdown. He can preside over a sluggish economy for two years during the Obama Administration, after which Congress flips to the opposition. And he just keeps falling upwards

Over at the Huffington Post Jason Linkins asks whether ‘Surely President Obama Is Joking About This ‘Have Larry Summers Run The World Bank’ Thing!’. His view is no less damning:

At any rate, it seems pretty clear that his prickliness, his record of being a source of dysfunction, and that teensy little thing where the policies he supported helped wreck the economy would all disqualify Summers

Any thoughts on Summers dear readers?

WB Presidential selection – what happens next?

Assuming the rumour mill is right and World Bank president Robert Zoellick will shortly announce that he’ll step down after one term (his time’s up in June) then, what happens next?

Well that depends on whether the Bank’s board lives up to its promises or not.  At least since October 2008, the World Bank development committee (Ministerial level executive board) has endorsed an “open, merit-based and transparent” selection process, “with nominations open to all Board members and transparent Board consideration of all candidates.”

You’ll notice the elephant though – no specific reference to ending US customary control over selection (so far there have been 11 World Bank Presidents – all men, all with US citizenship.) Rumours are already circulating on who the US government might be lining up as their candidate – Larry Summers now supplanting Hilary Clinton as the supposed front runner. But will the other 186 countries that are members of the Bank let this happen, or will they (or at least the developing countries who are the only ones who will have to live with World Bank policies and programmes) try and force the genuine contest that they’ve promised so many times?

The nitty gritty
Last spring, the Bank’s executive board endorsed a paper – summarised below – on Presidential selection [it was then ‘welcomed’ by the Ministers of the Bank’s development committee]. It is very short and fairly disappointing, detailing a very secretive process with no opportunity for external input, and a large amount of the detail – including the length of the process – left to be decided by the Board each time.

So surely it’s time to revisit this process and make some real improvements…. But where to look for ideas?  Thankfully a coalition of organisations published a comprehensive blueprint last year for IMF selection – nattily titled Heading for the right choice?

For the wonks – here’s the highlights from the April Board paper:

Qualification criteria:

  • “A proven track record of leadership;
  • Experience managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector;
  • Ability to articulate a clear vision of the Bank’s development mission;
  • A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and
  • Effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality and objectivity.”

Nomination procedure

  •  “Governors may nominate [candidates].”
  • “the length for the nomination period be clearly defined and communicated by the Board of Executive Directors in the context of a particular selection process.”

Shortlisting process

  • “The WG recommends a shortlisting process in circumstances where the number of candidates exceeds three … through … an informal straw poll … prior to formal voting.”

Confidentiality / secrecy

  • “The list of nominated candidates “would be held in confidence by the Board of Executive Directors”
  • “Once the Board arrives at a shortlist of candidates, the WBG would publish the names of those shortlisted candidates, with their consent.”

Interviews and selection

  • “formal interviews by the Board of Executive Directors be conducted for all shortlisted candidates”

We’re back!

Yes, Zoellick’s term is up this year, and the rumour mill is going into overdrive – most suggesting that he’s gonna step down so he can return to his first love: Republican Party politics.

So we’ve redesigned and relaunched your favourite blog site (check out all those social media buttons) where you can get all the news, views, and gossip about how his successor should be selected, who should get the job, and what their priorities should be. Multiple professor (at both Canadian and Indian universities) Sunil Chacko already got the ball rolling with a recent Huffington Post article.

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So keep coming back to follow the battle for the Bank in real time!