For My Mother: Don’t Let Larry Summers Lead the World Bank

Life has a way sometimes of throwing two superficially unrelated things across your path simultaneously in a way that forces you to contemplate their underlying connections.

Even at this late date, press reports suggest that President Obama is still considering nominating Larry Summers to be the next President of the World Bank.

Yesterday morning, my mother passed away. Continue reading

Finance Ministers of South Africa, Nigeria and Angola call for a news conference

Here is a bit of interesting news: 

“The finance ministers of South Africa, Nigeria and Angola called a news conference for Friday likely to address reports that they are backing Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become President of the World Bank.

“The Finance Ministers of Angola, Nigeria and South Africa are meeting in Pretoria tomorrow,” a statement from South Africa’s Treasury said, without giving details of the agenda. ”

More here 

“The ideal nominee for World Bank president”

An interesting blog by Felix Salmon of Reuters arguing that the nomination of Ngozi and Ocampo means that the White House should try to convince Hillary Clinton to accept to be  nominated, at least until the US election season is over.

Here is how he puts it: “This really puts the pressure on the White House to knock it out of the park with their nomination, because Ngozi, in particular, is broadly regarded both within and outside the Bank as being pretty much perfect for the job. She’s a whip-smart economist, she’s honest, she’s imaginative, she’s dedicated, she’s expert at navigating the Bank’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and politics, and she’s passionate about the way that the Bank can really make the world a better place.”

Adding: “If Hillary is nominated, the job is hers: it’s as simple as that. And she would be very good at it, too. She wouldn’t even need to serve out a full term. While she had the job, she might even be able to engineer a way in which she could be succeeded by Ngozi, or some other highly-qualified candidate without a US passport. Which alone would make her one of the most important and revolutionary presidents in the Bank’s history.” 

Which begs the question, how about creating a “Deputy President” position occupied by a non-American?

Talking about the future of the Bank

The latest Washington Post report on the heating up campaign talks about competition for the job.  It does not say that an American won’t be chosen.  It speaks to some World Bank executive directors wanting to make the selection “competitive”. This is not a bad thing because it will legitimize the selection of the American who is put forward.

But in the continuing obsession with the process Continue reading

What makes Jose Antonio Ocampo a good candidate for President of the World Bank

Below is a guest post from Chilean economist Stephany Griffith-Jones, currently Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University:

It is excellent news that developing countries are putting forward such outstanding candidates for the Presidency of the World Bank. I have been lucky to have worked closely with one of the two candidates, Jose Antonio Ocampo. He would be an excellent choice for many reasons.

Jose Antonio provides the rare combination of an experienced and successful policy-maker at the highest level (he was Minister of three portfolios in Colombia, including Finance, but also Agriculture and Planning), an outstanding international civil servant again at the highest level (including as Under Secretary General at the United Nations, as well as well as Head of the UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), and a leading academic researcher in key issues relating to development and macro-economic policy.

Continue reading

Will Obama choose to make history ?

The race for the next President of the World Bank’s Group just got a whole lot more interesting with the formal nomination of former Managing Director and current Finance Minister of Nigeria; Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, and, the less exciting, former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo . Ngozi’s nomination will, no doubt, make it very hard for the US Administration to put forward a credible nominee that can match her skill and reputation, even if they nominate a woman. Most of the representatives of the developing countries on the board of the World Bank are expected to line up behind Ngozi. The one and only thing missing from Ngozi’s CV is a US nationality. The Obama administration will certainly Continue reading

The Process is Forever Changed, for the Better

In the wake of Jeffrey Sachs’ unprecedented open candidacy for World Bank president comes important news that developing country economists may also join the race: former minister of finance for Colombia and former senior UN official José Antonio Ocampo, and Nigerian finance minister and former high level World Bank official Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. (Okonjo-Iweala is denying she will seek the position.) If this happens, in a similarly public way, as it appears it will, this will be a huge and irreversible step forward for World Bank governance reform. It would be a leap closer towards what the World Bank’s members have officially adopted as their preference for choosing the Bank’s leader: an open, merit-based process. A contest, of sorts, between Ocampo and Sachs (and perhaps Okonjo-Iweala) – presumably with developing country support behind them – would be a sea change from the Bank’s past practice of putting the U.S.’ (and the Global North’s) interests first in selecting presidents, with developing countries excluded. The succession this time is far different than in 2005, for example, when the Bush administration simply declared that Paul Wolfowitz would helm the Bank, to howls of protest but no known alternative nominees.

Continue reading

Southern countries step up for the fight: Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo to be nominated….

… according to a Reuters report:

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are set to be nominated to lead the World Bank, sources with knowledge of emerging market efforts to find candidates said on Tuesday.

It goes on: Continue reading

Larry Summers the US candidate? Fuggedaboutit!

With the Friday deadline for an American candidate looming, the grapevine is sprouting new fruit at a rapid rate. The latest rumour adds a little chicenery to the mix, with news that Geithner’s leaked list, which included Susan Rice, Larry Summers and John Kerry, actually had decoy names on it! What sneaky smoke and mirrors by the Treasury Secretary! And his grand plan to befuddle the general public was all so his homeboy Larry Summers could land the World Bank job.

Excuse the flippant tone, but these whispers of high level machinations by schemeing string-pullers in Washington have added a little spice to this story. We were all getting a little bogged down in Sachs to be honest. So, it seems that Larry Summers is the only US candidate at present. It’s been well established that Summers is not exactly Mr Popularity, and a new petition and accompanying website, Larry Summers? Fuggedaboutit!, picks up where many an have left off. The site is a playful reminder of Summers’s past indiscretions, with a section called ‘Let them eat waste’ detailing his absurd proposal to outsource pollution to poor countries. At the same time it is serious in its intent Continue reading

Susan Rice candidacy in trouble

Between the idle speculation about various “dream” non-candidates (Lula, Sri Mulyani, Bachelet, Ngozi), the shameless self-promotion by academics (Sachs), and the attacks on Larry Summers after the White House leaked his name a month ago, and the NGOs’ unwillingness to go beyond criticizing the selection process to specify the selection criteria and how to apply them, the rumored White House frontrunner, Susan Rice, is in trouble.

Visibility at the UN is a big asset for an international job.  In some ways it compensates for Dr. Rice’s lack of first-hand experience on development issues, and inexperience at running a big organization in the public sector.

The downside is that you make enemies.  And Russia and China are not the kind of enemies you want if the White House was thinking of you as Robert Zoellick’s successor. Continue reading