“Ready. Steady. Ngo”

In a very pointed editorial, the Economist comes out in support of Ngozi without mincing words. In “Hats off to Ngozi:  A golden opportunity for the rest of the world to show Barack Obama the meaning of meritocracy”, the Economist puts its argument this way:

“For almost 70 years, the leadership of the IMF and World Bank has been subject to an indefensible carve-up. The head of the IMF is European; the World Bank, American. This shabby tradition has persisted because it has not been worth picking a fight over. The gap between Mr Kim and Ms Okonjo-Iweala changes the calculation. It gives others a chance to insist on the best candidate, not simply the American one. Mr Ocampo should bow out gracefully. And the rest of the world should rally round Ms Okonjo-Iweala. May the best woman win.”  Full Article.


 

 

6 thoughts on ““Ready. Steady. Ngo”

  1. The Economist has it wrong on NOO’s management achievements when she was Managing Director at the World Bank. Leaving aside the imperious style she brought to her job when Bob Zoellick brought her back–Ngozi had widely fended off Paul Wolfowitz’s plea to join his failed team–and the tantrums she threw when she didn’t get her way, there were three big matters on which her leadership was, to put it mildly, lacking.

    First, As chair of the Bank’s internal council on governance and anti-corruption, how did she respond to the numerous raised by the IEG evaluation including, on risks of lending in poorly governed states? Was she dazzled by star power in Liberia, for example?

    Second, on HR reforms and the matrix, why did she not attempt to address longstanding structural problems with the Bank’s matrix (also in an IEG report). These include a key risk to the Bank’s credibility and to its future, the atrophying of deep sectoral knowledge on the one hand and the weakening of country;based financing on the other (through the growth of special crisis windows and the Bank’s acquiescence with the growth of vertical funds).

    Third, on management succession, there is widespread knowledge of her use of her own personal fiefdoms in the Bank to see that her friends and loyal staff–and not a few of her compatriots–were rewarded with promotions they weren’t ready for. One, a senior Bank staff member who hired Ngozi as a short-term consultant as she bounced out of the Minister of Foreign Affairs job in Abuja, was in her retirement appointed to a cush, tax-free job in Africa, while Ngozi made sure continued World Bank funding was available.

    Assistants and advisors to World Bank board members are reportedly thrilled that “for once there’s a competition.” This is all well and good provided that their principals brush away the fog being blown by the candidates’ blogging supporters and the newspapers who read them, and get down to what the candidates’ actual records show.

    Contrary to the voters in this website’s polls, the main issue is not about World Bank governance, openness and transparency. That would disqualify their darling. It’s about the future of the Bank, and whether an insider with a profile and style like the ones the Bank’s used to can do what’s necessary to refashion the Bank for the 21st Century. Not everyone thinks she can, and while few should go out to cancel their Economist subscriptions, let’s remember that the Economist, long a mouthpiece for official World Bank thinking, has gotten it wrong–seriously wrong–before.

  2. I agree with the previous blogger that NOI did not leave behind a strong legacy of institutional achievements dueing her four-year stint as MD of the World Bank. Her assignment helped her raise her considerable public profile much more than serving the causes of courageous leadership and meritocratic management of WB resources.

    In addition to the points raised by the previous blogger, one should remember her botched management of the HR measures taken to punish several Bank staff for the alleged irregularities in the Albania coastal rezoming project. Her decisions were later overturned by the independent World Bank Tribunal with two high-profile decisions that lambasted WB management lack of due process and abuse of discretionary power.

    Equally controversial (if not more) is the negative assessment given by the World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group of the rationale for and development impact of the Bank’s “historic” $500 million development credit to Nigeria in 2009 funded by the concessional lending window IDA. The operation, under her own direct watch as well as of another Nigerian national that was serving at that time as World Bank Vice President for Africa, amounted to a blatant budget support resource transfer to the country which later appointed her as “economic czarina”.

    More independent scrutiny of NOI’s management record at the World Bank is needed to enable a proper assessment of NOI’s adequacy in the top stewardship role of the World Bank.

    • Neither is silent, of course. But it would be wrong to assume that the “n” is by default silent because of the strong guttural sound of the “g”.

  3. “Meritocracy” is not a word that immediately springs to mind when one looks at Ngozi’s record of management picks at the World Bank. Strange word for the Economist to use…

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