who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Scoop: Europeans demand number 2 position. I was informed this evening that European governments are trying to negotiate to get a European named as a senior Managing Director at the Bank. A reliable government source who has just attended the European Council discussions here in Brussels said that Europeans are demanding a senior representative "as part of Wolfowitz's team" if the latter is made World Bank president.

My view is that such a move would represent a further kick in the teeth to developing countries, who have been told repeatedly they would be getting more representation in the international financial institutions. The credibility of these supposedly multilateral bodies would suffer yet further if their top four positions become allocated on a political basis by the US and European governments. (The number two position at the Fund, currently occupied by Anne Krueger, is a US appointment).

The Europeans were claiming to occupy a slight bump of moral high ground on the basis that multiple candidates were belatedly allowed to challenge for the IMF Managing Director position last year. This argument was already failing to convince many. Adopting an "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude to the World Bank, by pushing one of their number forward to a souped up number two position there, would extend the jobs stitch-up and move us further away from a meritocratic selection procedure.

Chinese national Shengman Zhang is currently the senior managing director at the Bank, although he does not have the Deputy President status that would apparently be sought for a European. His future would be uncertain if the Europeans have their way.

I of course asked my source which Europeans might be thrust forward for this role. I got no reply. One possibility is that the Europeans might look to one of their number who has just been put forward for the UNDP top job. These are: Hilde F. Johnson (Norway), minister for international development; Ad Melkert (Netherlands), current World Bank Executive Director and former minister of social affairs; and Baroness Valerie Amos (Britain), leader of the House of Lords and former secretary of state for international development.

Whether one of the above would be prepared to extract themselves from the UNDP race is not clear. But they know they cannot all get it. And we also know, because Kofi Annan has fulfilled his promise of a transparent shortlist of more than one person for the UNDP leadership.

Some of the Europeans listed above are interesting and progressive individuals. But would they really believe that filling a number two slot will rebalance the Bank? The argument that wise Europeans will fill the space in order to do the right thing for developing countries is a bit like the argument men used to use to justify not giving women the vote.

What do you think of this European proposal? Have your say on our web forum.

Alex Wilks ~ March 23, 2005

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