who will be next World Bank President What will they do


I remember the last time. Everyone knows that you need to be an American to be in with a shot of making World Bank President. So how come James Wolfensohn is Australian?

According to Sebastian Mallaby, Wolfensohn was put at the top of a list of non-Americans that 4th President, Robert McNamara, thought worth considering for the job. None of them were really going to be selected, but it seemed a nice idea to put a foreigner in the frame.

Wolfensohn's reaction was typical. If he needed to be an American to run the Bank, he'd change his nationality. Using contacts in the White House, he was an American citizen just a couple of weeks later.

But then Jimmy Carter offered the job to someone else - Alden “Tom” Clausen. Clausen knew little about development and less about the public sector, but was arm-twisted into saying yes.

Ronald Reagan got the next pick. He didn't like the Bank much and certainly didn't want Clausen. Paul Volcker refused the job, so it was offered to Barber Conable.

Conable didn't want the job either, but was corralled into accepting it to stop the Europeans putting forward a candidate. "Like Clausen before him," Mallaby writes, "Conable knew nothing about poverty or development, and he was disinclined to learn."

Conable gave way to Lewis Preston, but Preston got cancer. So the Clinton administration set up a search team, which Wolfensohn did his best to circumvent with a vigorous lobbying campaign.

Cue much bureaucratic infighting, curtailed when Wolfensohn gets sneaked in to convince first Al Gore and then Bill Clinton of his case.

"Clinton asked nothing about the World Bank and little about development... The conversation swam along, with one curious and agile mind playing off against the other."

Shortly after - but some 15 years after he’d become an American - Wolfensohn got the job.

David Steven ~ January 05, 2005

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