who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Merge Bank/IMF. Fritz Fischer writes to the FT to suggest another way of tackling the "outdated" tradition where the US picks the World Bank President, the Europeans pick the IMF boss, and the rest of the world gets left out: merge the two institutions.

"The World Bank Group - as its name indicates - is already a multifunctional organisation (the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency), and the IMF is just across the street and has the same membership," writes Fischer, a German Executive Director at the World Bank from 1991 to 1996.

"It thus appears that the time has come to "think the unthinkable" and combine the two while leaving their original mandates intact for the time being."

Fischer writes in response to a Martin Wolf article (paid subs) from a few days back, where Wolf argues that the Bank, WTO and OECD "need to be headed by first-rate people, not by the mediocrities that governments too often prefer."

According to Wolf, the Bank needs a leader who is (i) morally and intellectually engaged; (ii) able to set priorities in the face of pressure from donors, borrowers and "the demanding, and often destructive, activist community"; (iii) prepared to ruthlessly focus on generating economic growth and improved welfare in the world's poorest countries.

Posted by David Steven at 10:01 AM

Add Garten, Dervis to the list. Readers have been in touch with intriguing suggestions for two more candidates for World Bank President. Rumours from Washington reach us, via Yale School of Management, that its Dean, Jeff Garten, might be in with a shout. Garten, a veteran of the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations, was in the same class at Andover as the US president...

Meanwhile, another correspondent - a World Bank veteran from Europe - counsels the US to appoint a non-American candidate, thus giving a much needed boost to its international credibility. His choice? Kemal Dervis, ex-Bank staffer and father of Turkey's economic miracle.

Both men would be available for an early start. While Dervis is now cooling his heels on the Turkish backbenches, Garten will retire from Yale at the end of the academic year.

Both are associated with a softening of the free market consensus, giving them international appeal. Garten has chided Bush for being too impatient with multilateral institutions. "Make no mistake: free markets without regulation will wreak havoc," he says (mpp). "The US can’t do it alone, powerful as we are these days. The world economy does need collective political leadership."

Dervis is also on record attacking market fundamentalism. "I believe that humankind is one large family," he says. "And while I'm fond of Turkey and patriotic, I've also always believed in the principles of the international social-democratic movement."

However both take significant handicaps into the Bank president race. From the point of view of the US adminstration, Dervis's disadvantages are twofold - he's foreign and he leans some way to the left. And Garten? I wonder if his days as an Enron cheerleader will come back to haunt him...

Keep watching...

Posted by David Steven at 02:57 PM

No word on Brownback. The Lawrence Journal-World has been chasing up yesterday's rumour that Sam Brownback may make World Bank President, with predictable results.

Brownback spokesman: "He's not going to have any comment on it." US Treasury spokesman: "Obviously, the (Bush) administration holds the senator in high regard, but we don't confirm or deny who might be under consideration."

Meanwhile, a measured reaction to the story from one self-confessed political junkie:

"Anyone Bush nominates for World Bank President will be evil, even if few are as evil as Brownback, the ultimate culture warrior. However, anyone Kathleen Sebelius nominates for Senate will be a Democrat. That is a trade I would like to see."

Another blogger agrees, accusing Brownback of a "repugnant combination of religious fundamentalism and corporate gladhanding (both on a par that would make many Republicans blush). He'd make a terrible World Bank president, but whether he'd be worse there than in the Senate is an open question."

I wonder what Kansas republicans think...

Posted by David Steven at 12:04 PM

Kassebaum-Baker for President? Another name to throw into the pot for World Bank President - Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, ex-senator and currently serving on Tony Blair's pet project, the Commission for Africa, where she's rubbing shoulders with Geldof, Manuel, Camdessus, Brown, and other members of development's great and the good.

Kassebaum-Baker was the first woman senator not to be elected as a result of her husband’s death in office. She is a "moderate populist conservative", with a track record of interest in African issues.

While positive about the role development can play in propping up failing states, her track record suggests a willingness to push for sanctions on governments that infringe human rights.

She is a supporter of various development NGOs, such as Vital Voices, which is working for "a world of peace, justice and econonic [sic] opportunity for all, where the voice of every woman is heard and respected."

Kassebaum-Baker has been a critic of waste within the UN system – coming down hard on the UN’s global jamborees ("if an issue is serious, a conference will not solve it; if it is not serious, a conference is a waste of time") - and has campaigned to increase US influence over UN agencies.

As a Republican with a good international network, Kassebaum-Baker could be a consensus choice. For one thing, she is likely to support family planning programs - an issue where US policy has caused deep divisions internationally in the past.

But does she have the experience to run a large, messy and controversial bureaucracy?

Posted by David Steven at 11:57 AM

Brownback – you heard it here first. Speculation reaches us from a well-placed source that President Bush’s thoughts may be turning to his buddy, Sam Brownback, as a possible next Bank president.

Brownback, a Republican Senator for Kansas, is a prominent Catholic, compassionate conservative and soldier in the US’s culture wars.

His foreign policy is trademark neo-conservative. As the world’s dominant power, he argues, the US has a responsibility to export political, economic and religious freedom.

Trade is a vital tool: "By reaching out to our friends and struggling nations, by opening our markets to their products and vice versa, we can deploy the entrepreneurship of America as a weapon to help solidify the foundations of democracy, civil liberty, human rights, and economic prosperity abroad."

His development experience appears limited. He’s an advocate of democracy assistance, piloting a bill to support opposition groups in Iran for example. He’s also lambasted the international development community for its failure to use DDT in combating malaria.

At home, he is associated with the war against drug use ("wrong because it debases, it enslaves, and it destroys"), gay marriage (a plot to "do away entirely with the traditional definition of the family") and cloning.

We reckon that a Brownback candidacy would play well with Bush’s base at home (there'd be rejoicing in the Corner); disastrously with pretty much everyone abroad.

Not sure how seriously Brownback is being considered, but worth watching…

Update: In Kansas, they're wondering whether they might need to start looking for a new senator...

Posted by David Steven at 10:55 AM

Bank chief's parting shots. The Wall Street Journal carries an interview with Bank president Wolfensohn. It confirms that Wolfensohn conducted "a rear-guard action to prevent his removal" and that he never got on well with former US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. O'Neill criticized Mr. Wolfensohn's management style and considered having him replaced in 2001.

Wolfensohn told the WSJ's Dan Bilefsky: "I haven't always been popular with the Republican administration because I wasn't nominated by them".

The WSJ states that Robert Nichols, spokesman for the U.S. Treasury, said current U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow held Mr. Wolfensohn in high regard and was drawing on his input in the succession process at the World Bank. He commented: "The two have a positive and productive working relationship, and they meet frequently".

Mr. Wolfensohn acknowledged that his efforts to shake up the bank's hierarchy -- he decentralized the management structure and forced country directors to leave their desks in Washington for the field in Africa and Indonesia -- hadn't always won him friends. The shake-up "is why some people say I am a difficult character," he said.

Mr. Wolfensohn warned of the dangers of aid fatigue and urged the world's wealthiest countries not to forget about Africa after the tsunami. He chastised the world's wealthy countries for their failure to double the world's total development assistance. "The political will just isn't there," he said.

And he called for the world's finance leaders to slash the debt load of the world's poorest countries, backing Britain's proposal to cancel the debt owed by 27 of the world's poorest countries to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank by using funding from big creditor countries to cover the cost.

The Journal article provides further evidence of the eyeballs on this site. It states: "Web site worldbankpresident.org, an independent European-run site monitoring the race, lists Mr. Clinton among possible successors. The list also includes former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Michigan State University President Peter McPherson. Mr. Wolfensohn said he and Treasury Secretary Snow had checked out the site over dinner last week to see how the horserace was progressing. But he declined to pick a favorite".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 10:10 AM

Former Bank spokesman condemns timidity. Tim Cullen, former Chief Spokesman of the Bank, has written to the Financial Times complaining that other governments are too timid to challenge the US to force a proper search process for the Bank’s top job.

Cullens' letter points out that “the Bank's articles of agreement require its headquarters to be located in the country that has the largest shareholding, but the nationality of the president is not stipulated - although, by tradition, it has always been an American. The trouble is that none of the other shareholders, which hold almost 80 per cent of the shares and votes, has the courage to say no to the US administration.”

Cullen feels the argument that the US contributions to the Bank would dry up if there was a non-American at the helm are grossly exaggerated. He echoes the call from FT columnist and former World Bank staffmember Martin Wolf that a search committee should be established to find the most suitable person for the job.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:25 AM

Wolfensohn using this site. "I should tell you I took to the meeting with the Secretary [Snow] a print out of worldbankpresident.org and we used that as the basis of our discussion," current president James Wolfensohn told Bank staff at his 'Town Hall' staff meeting.

"So if any of you want to be up to date on the inside scoop, check worldbankpresident.org, and you'll probably know as much as I do."

Reuters carries a story on Wolfensohn's speech to staff and subsequent and Q&A session.

He tried to persuade staff "not to spend a lot of time worrying" about who would follow him. This was a change in tone from smaller meetings - where he has argued that people will certainly appreciate his approach to issues "when one of George Bush's cousins" takes over.

Wolfensohn also commented that he had shared "everything that was on his mind" with US Treasury Secretary Snow but was not certain if the views he had expressed would carry any weight.

We're glad Bank staff from top to bottom are avidly following the site and would be happy to hear more from you.

The Bank official who wrote to us commented "your website is a terrific, and that it's brought a level of insight and transparency (if that's even possible) into the presidential selection process that I would otherwise have had no knowledge of, even as a staff member".

We hope the confirmation that this site is being actively used by Wolfensohn, other candidates and so many journalists will encourage you all to continue keeping us closely informed (contact@worldbankpresident.org).

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:29 AM

Diplomatic Dutch give little away. An article in leading Dutch daily de Volkskrant credits worldbankpresident.org and interviews me and Ad Melkert, the Dutch representative on the World Bank's board.

Melkert is cagey. He is quoted (free subs, Dutch) saying "the selection procedure is still subject of discussion" and that the World Bank needs a strong head. De Volkskrant Journalist Olav Velthuis comments, though, that it is public knowledge that the USA makes the appointment.

Melkert should have a lot more to say about this process. He is an experienced board member who for the last seven months has chaired the European caucus of representatives on the World Bank's board.

Could his reticence be because the US government has instructed European representatives not to speak out about the President selection process? I think so, based on up to date information from a well-connected researcher who has been following World Bank governance for some time.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:53 PM

Manuel makes his play? Last week, worldbankpresident.org broke the story that Trevor Manuel - South African finance minister - was being touted as candidate for World Bank president.

Now, Bloomberg's Simon Kennedy and Michael McKee report that Manuel has used the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos to push for consideration of a non-US president.

"It should be a broader opportunity,'' Manuel, is quoted as saying. "The success of the bank in dealing with developmental issues going forward would require the best person regardless of nationality.''

Manuel refused to name possible candidates, but said he had a number in mind. It's not clear whether he would put himself at the top of the list...

[Thanks to Simon Kennedy for sending us the story. We'll post a link when it's online.]

Posted by David Steven at 04:50 PM

Pick of the day. The "accomplished and intelligent" worldbankpresident.org is today's Guardian Newsblog pick of the day.

Posted by David Steven at 12:56 PM

UN ticks off Bank and IMF. Inter Press reports a "rare" display of public censure from the UN, which has rebuked the World Bank and IMF for failing to broaden developing country participation in international economic decision making.

In fact, the criticism in the 2005 World Economic Situation and Prospects echoes that in the 2004 report. The UN is clearly irked by the mess surrounding the appointment of the IMF director and the failure of both institutions to put a more open process in place...

Posted by David Steven at 10:06 AM

Could it be Gates? In its main editorial today The Guardian considers the candidates and promotes the idea of Bill Gates. The piece argues "the ideal candidate would have experience of running a large, knowledge-driven organisation with an international scope. Second, he or she would need to be deeply interested in international aid and development. (Mr Wolfensohn lacked both facilities, causing the bank much wasted effort.)"

Thirdly, the president should have "a high profile, an inspirational manner and a flair for diplomacy". It decides that Bill Gates - all over the news today - is the best-placed American candidate.

The Guardian thinks Europe certainly doesn't want to pick any more fights with Washington, ruling out Gordon Brown, or any candidates from Bank recipient countries. And it condemns some of our featured candidates as "an unsavoury menu" of "Randall Tobias, the "former head of drugs giant Eli Lilly"; "Elaine Chao, an airline lobbyist turned Bushite labour secretary"; or "John Taylor, best known as a hard-nosed economist".

And the Guardian leader-writer concerned called www.worldbankpresident.org to say they are big fans of this site. Well we liked the editorial, too (if a bit slow in coming).

We are not plugging any of the current candidates. But we can say that while Bill Gates' philanthropy is very impressive, his business approach transferred to the Bank would very much alarm critics who already see the World Bank as an over-dominant player in development knowledge. US academic Steven Klees even named it the MOB - the Monopoly Opinion Bank.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:59 PM

Outside the box. In an editorial, the Washington Post dismisses the claims of all leading candidates for presidency of the "powerful but fragile" World Bank - bar Colin Powell, who may not be willing to take the job on.

"If Mr. Powell is not interested, the Bush administration should think outside the box," it says, without giving us any help as to what "out of the box" might mean in this context.

The Post lays out three criteria for the job: "The next World Bank chief should ideally be an experienced manager familiar with the complex politics of public-sector organizations; management of private firms is an almost separate discipline.

"He or she must be a persuasive communicator -- the bank is surrounded by critics, and must constantly defend itself -- and must understand development."

Chao, Taylor and Tobias, it reckons, fail one or more of these tests.

The Post also gives a highly critical potted history of the presidential choices. In 1981, the US gave the job to A W Clausen, a commercial banker with no knowledge of development; in 1986, it picked Barber B Conable Jr, an ex-Congressman who was so uninterested in the World Bank that he had to check his own voting record to see whether he had opposed appropriating money for it. In 1991, the White House installed Lewis T Preston, another commercial banker with no aptitude for the job.

The FT, meanwhile, carries an editorial setting out a post-Wolfensohn agenda for the Bank.

Posted by David Steven at 11:16 AM

Southern countries following not leading. Developing country representatives have so far failed to put forward a candidate for the Bank position. They have also resisted making statements about the process. Reports I have received of recent meetings with developing country representatives in Washington indicate that they are not prepared to act for fear of offending the USA.

One official pointed out that World Bank client country staff do not want to rock the boat as they see their main job as negotiating loans from the institution. Alienating its main shareholder (the USA) and incoming president would therefore not be wise.

However you'd think they should be trying to influence the choice of incoming president to ensure they are not completely in the thrall of the Whitehouse. Apparently not. There is said to be little energy and a feeling of despondency around the developing country Executive Directors' (EDs) offices in Washington. So the surprising rebellion of half the EDs in the IMF during the succession at that institution seems unlikely to be repeated.

It's flattering for us, but worrying for the world: apparently developing country EDs - far from being proactive on this issue - are relying on www.worldbankpresident.org just to follow it.

As ever we are open to comments or further insights. (Anonymously if necessary: to contact@worldbankpresident.org).

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:22 AM

Fund/Bank musical chairs? One theory now doing the rounds in Washington is that Anne Krueger will be offered the World Bank presidency while John Taylor will be given Krueger’s current job. Krueger is now second in command at the IMF.

Krueger was chief economist of the World Bank during the peak of structural adjustment in the 1980s. When she was appointed to the IMF Deputy Director position in 2001 the Financial Times described her as "a controversial choice for many developing countries".

Krueger, Taylor and also Condoleeza Rice are all alumni of the Hoover Institution in Stanford and if Taylor went to the Bank or the Fund they would form an impressive old school network in key international positions. In fact it would amount to a new ‘Stanford mafia’.

The so-called ‘Berkely mafia’ of campaign NGOs and academics monitoring the World Bank would not be pleased. But they would not be alone. A senior figure in the World Bank tells me they couldn’t continue to work there if Taylor is asked to run the institution.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:08 AM

Manuel the coming man? I have been told by sources in and near the Bank that Trevor Manuel is a key figure people are considering as a way of opening up the Bank president selection.

Some people have appealed to Manuel to put his name forward for the position. Others are hoping the Europeans will do so. They feel that a nomination of the South African finance minister (who currently chairs the Development Committee, the ministerial body which oversees the Bank’s activities) would have to be taken seriously and would raise the bar for other candidates, whether from the USA or from other developing countries.

Manuel has certainly made some interesting noises about the problems with how the World Bank and IMF are run. Last year he gave a lecture (PDF) at Oxford University where he stated that “multilateral institutions are experiencing a degradation of their legitimacy because of their governance structures”.

He continued: “If the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organisation do not represent the voices of the poor and marginalised, they are unlikely to correctly analyse the policy choices that can be used to address the concerns of the poor and marginalised”.

However over the last eighteen months Manuel has been in charge of proposing reforms to the outdated, inequitable and non-transparent governance system of the World Bank and IMF and has failed to negotiate any tangible reforms to the governance structures of the institutions.

His record as finance minister in his own country has also been controversial – with a number of civil society groups accusing him of introducing home-grown structural adjustment.

There has been no word from Trevor Manuel on the possible job change. This week he hosted Gordon Brown for the Africa Commission meeting in Cape Town. It is highly likely that they took a minute to discuss where long-standing finance ministers with an interest in international issues can go next and whether one of them should leave domestic politics in favour of the Bank position.

Stay tuned.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:12 PM

Democracy not the point. Assistant Pol-Sci Prof, Vikash Yadav links to worldbankpresident.org, before taking on the conventional wisdom that we need a more democratic presidential selection process.

Professor Yadav's argument in a nutshell: (i) the Bank is not meant to democratic; (ii) its main priority must be to maintain creditor confidence; (iii) this means keeping the US on board.

"The US is pretty timid in appointing its citizens to head other major international institutions that it bankrolls: the head of the UN is African, the head of the IMF is European, the head of the WTO is Asian, the head of the IAEA is Middle Eastern," he adds. "Thus, it seems reasonable to me that the head of the World Bank should be an American.

"The real challenge for the international financial institutions should not be focused on debating the skin color or gender of the figurehead-in-charge, but attempting to give developing countries a greater voice in the design of programs and allocation of available resources within the realistic constraints of power politics."

Yadav's tip for the job: Bill Clinton. "Hey, he's a long shot - but he's become awfully chummy with the Bushes and he really needs a job."

The professor's verdict on www.worldbankpresident.org? "Rather silly ..." but "... of some educational value".

Posted by David Steven at 10:36 AM

Who runs the world? We get a nice plug from Noura Boustany in the Washington Post (scroll for it, free subs), who reckons that Randall Tobias is the only "major remaining candidate" for president, with Colin Powell and Christine Todd Whitman out of the running.

Apparently, James Wolfensohn and John Snow, US Treasury Secretary, had lunch yesterday to discuss sucessors.

Posted by David Steven at 10:03 AM

Inertia in the system. An article from Inter-Press Service records further discontent with the murky selection process for World Bank president. The piece - which cites this site - quotes leading US development campaigners but says it "is not only development groups that fault the IMF and the World Bank for their so-called 'democracy deficit'. In both 2000 and 2004, developing countries and others (including Japan in 2000) protested their exclusion from consideration in the choice of the IMF managing director."

However despite a significant number of countries challenging the process there is inertia built into the system. The article quotes a Washington source saying: ”the way it works out as well with the European picking the IMF head is that it ensures that they do not have a huge interest in rocking the boat too much either”. The US government did not object last year to the surprising nomination of Rodrigo Rato to be IMF Managing Director and assumed that would allow it to place its favoured candidate in the Bank.

Rick Rowden, a campaigner with Action Aid USA commented: "”These institutions are designed to represent the world of the 1940s. The world has changed in profound ways. The most profound way the world has changed is that citizens today demand a great deal more accountability and transparency from the governing institutions.”

The article mentions this website as a source of news, comments and tips on the contenders for the position. It notes that none of our seventeen candidates have publicly denied being tapped for the position.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:31 AM

Time to fight corruption. "If you conduct independent forensic investigation of the amount of Bank loan money that is routinely stolen or wasted by contractors connected with Bank projects in least-developed countries, the Bank's credit rating will tank," foreign policy analyst, Pundita argues.

She proposes Eliot Spitzer, New York State Atorney General and scourge of Wall Street, as the man to clean up the mess.

"Spitzer knows the terrain of Establishment resistance to calls for structural reform," she writes. "He's been there, bought the T-shirt and the DVD. Above all, that is why Eliot Spitzer is the best choice for the next World Bank President. Even if he only took the job for a year, as interim president, humankind would benefit."

Read the whole thing for Pundita's "crash course" on how the development bank loan model works in practice.

Posted by David Steven at 09:29 AM

It's got to be Gordon - TIME. "There's one job - a vitally important one - for which the British Chancellor is the person best qualified in the world" comments TIME Europe today. It praises Brown's management of the British economy and suggests he could serve as president of the World Bank for ten years - remaining "a figure on the world stage when Blair had long retired to the board of the Carlyle Group and a spread in Gascony".

Even though "he bears grudges and does not make people feel comfortable" TIME feels "he has the qualities that would make him a superb president, one who could lead the Bank to a new level of global credibility". It comments that "Brown does not just have the intellectual smarts to lead the Bank — though he has them in spades. During his time as Chancellor, he has also shown a rare and genuine compassion for the poor, and has relentlessly bullied other Finance Ministries to forgive debt to developing countries and open their wallets to the destitute of the world".

TIME joins the list of publications condeming "the cynical carve-up of positions at the head of key international institutions" which reserves this job for an American. It says that "there is no American candidate — no, not even Colin Powell, of whom Bank staffers dream — who is as perfect a fit for the Bank as Brown".

The Sunday Herald also considers the possibility that Brown might call it a day in British politics and look at the Bank job as a good escape option. It reviews Brown's options and finds it a serious possibility that he might not be offered a cabinet post and a full-scale media briefing war with Blair might break out. "In this scenario it would be tempting for Brown to look favourably to the post that will be vacated in May by the current president of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn. That option may already be under serious consideration as Brown tours Africa and realises the power and influence he could direct – especially over world poverty and foreign debt aid – at the World Bank".

There has been no comment from Gordon Brown during his Africa trip on this possibility.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:59 PM

Advice for the new president. Handy tips for the incoming president of the Bank are listed in today's Financial Times. They include a suggestion not to shout at staff and a promise that despite the decentralisation of some Bank decision-making "you can still parachute in for dinner with a president and immediately earmark extra funds for his pet project".

Robert Shrimsley's satirical article was prompted by Wolfensohn's announcement that he is leaving a handover manual for his successor.

The piece, written in the style of a memo from the "not entirely self-effacing" Wolfensohn advises: "given the current political climate and need for you to have been approved by the Bush administration, I'll start with the basics. Africa is that big place in the southern hemisphere. The one that looks a bit like a revolver, if that helps. It's poor, really poor, even poorer than Arkansas. It needs sorting out, by which I don't mean deploying a platoon of Don Rumsfeld's finest."

"The World Bank will always be pulled three ways between the rich countries stumping up the cash, who prefer at least some of it to trickle through to the poor on its way to the Swissfirst Bank in Zurich, the poorer countries who need the help, and the NGOs who think they know more than the others about how to spend it."

Later in this process we will also post suggestions and comments about where they should take the Bank and how. The candidates won't be able to say they were not warned.

The FT also carries a letter by Manish Bapna and Nikki Reisch at Bank Information Center, a watchdog NGO in Washington. This argues that "decision-making structures are fundamentally unbalanced." They point out that "Even under the leadership of a qualified president, if the bank continues to take decisions behind closed doors it risks perpetuating its image as a technocratic power out of the reach of ordinary citizens".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:49 AM

No good candidates. The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial, is down on foreign aid (not an effective development tool), down on the World Bank (half a trillion dollars down the pan), and down on the candidates to replace James Wolfensohn as Bank president.

Christine Todd Whitman - "bends with the prevailing media winds". Colin Powell - "would bring star quality but not economic experience to the task". Peter McPherson - "helped develop post-Saddam Iraq's pro-growth economic policies" (it's not clear if the WSJ thinks this is a good or a bad thing).

Posted by David Steven at 06:55 PM

Voice of America interview. Just been interviewed for Voice of America. Will post a link if it appears on the net...

Posted by David Steven at 04:40 PM

New rules. A useful site for those interested to compare the Bank's selection process with the IMF's...

Posted by David Steven at 11:59 AM

A way out. Yesterday, we reported Adrian Hewitt's speculation that Gordon Brown might fancy the World Bank job.

The Guardian's Michael White has picked up this gossip too, wondering whether "Brown, an admired chancellor, could offer himself for Wolfensohn's World Bank job (he has threatened to go to the IMF in the past) or go to the backbenches."

"Most Labour MPs believe [Blair and Brown] will soldier on as usual, fearful that a fight to the death might kill both," he writes. "A few sceptics are even checking when 71-year-old James Wolfensohn retires.

"Who he? The president of the World Bank, one of the few jobs apart from prime minister of Britain that a disillusioned Brown could take with dignity. Wolfensohn steps down in May."

Posted by David Steven at 10:35 AM

Smooth transition. At yesterday's press conference on the Asian tsunami, outgoing Bank president James Wolfensohn called for his successor to be appointed quickly to allow a smooth transition.

His staff are preparing a "how to run the Bank" manual for the new president, he said, and he expects bootlegged copies to soon be circulating among the press. We'll let you know when we have a copy...

Full transcript:

MS. WROUGHTON [Reuters]: I mean would you--you started this huge task. As you start winding down, would you like to see this construction project well underway or completed by the time that you leave? My second question is you've spoken of a transition period. Does that mean, would you think that it would be the best thing to have somebody in place quite soon and then work with you until you leave?

MR. WOLFENSOHN: Well, you know, I'd like to get everything done before I go so that nothing is left for my successor.


MR. WOLFENSOHN: But I think that's unlikely either in the case of the tsunamis or the Congo or the Middle East crisis or a hundred other things I could tell you, so I don't think I should wait around to complete this or anything else. I think there will always be things for us to do.

What I plan to do in the next five months is to work as hard as I can on every one of the issues which is before us. I don't intend to stop working till the first of June, and on the transition, it's really for the shareholders to decide. What I would be very pleased about would be if they can decide on the successor in time for me to be able to work with whoever that person is for a period of time to make a smooth transition.

We're already preparing a transition manual which will be an ABC guide to how to run the Bank, which no doubt bootlegged copies will be made available to the press, and then you can all know the secrets of the institution, but in any event I'm going to try and get that together because it's something I lacked when I came in and I'd like my successor to have it. So I'm doing everything I can to prepare for whoever the successor is.

Five minutes to go. See how I'm--before I announced my retirement, they never gave me these things, but now they feel I'm vulnerable. Are there any more questions? Take two more questions.

MR. DUNPHY [AP]: After June 1, what are you going to do?

MR. WOLFENSOHN: I'm going to have a rest.

Posted by David Steven at 10:22 AM

Undemocratic institutions. In a letter to the FT, Rick Rowden argues that, behind the US's efforts to "undemocratically select" a new president, lies a broader problem: the undemocratic structure of the Bank and its sister institution, the IMF.

"Both were created in the 1940s and their structures still reflect the world of the 1940s," he writes. "The world has changed in profound ways since then. Those of us now in the 21st century recognise that people rightfully demand far greater democratic accountability and transparency than these institutions can offer.

"While there is today serious momentum towards a major restructuring of the other key 1940s institutions - the United Nations and its Security Council - in order to better reflect contemporary political reality, it seems the World Bank and IMF are set to avoid any significant restructuring."

Posted by David Steven at 10:05 AM

Europeans against Taylor. We have received a further insider e-mail indicating that "judging from the corridor conversations occurring now at the Bank's Board, nearly all major European shareholders of the Bank are going to strongly oppose the candidacy of John Taylor". They say that Europeans may restrain themselves from proposing other candidates, hoping to pressure the Bush administration to propose some US ones that they will find acceptable.

Our source continues: "Taylor's philosophy towards the Bank is largely similar to what was expressed in the Melzer Report, which, based on major factual errors and logical inconsistencies, argued to turn the Bank from a lending institution into a charity organization handing out only grants. The US grant conversion proposal is widely viewed both by non-US shareholders and by the Bank management itself as a long-term conspiracy to financially weaken and eventually kill the Bank".

They predict: "at this point, it is unlikely that the European shareholders would float any names of non-US candidates, hoping to generate some "goodwill" from the Bush administration (and hoping that the US would in return propose a couple of acceptable names). Were US to propose an anti-Bank candidate such as Taylor or a light-weight candidate who the Europeans deem as improper for the Bank's top job, they would be prepared to float names of their own candidates, either from Europe or from a developing country. Unlike US who is suspicious of all multilateral institutions including both the UN and to a lesser degree the Bank, Europeans have respected the Bank's integrity (the Bank at least allocates lending based on economic needs, unlike the US foreign aid which is expressly driven by selfish political needs of the US), and deem the Bank as the flagship institution of international development which deserves a high-caliber president".

This source is corroborating and bringing up to date what we reported last week.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:32 PM

Don't neglect Gordon Brown. ODI's Adrian Hewitt gets in touch to warn us not to swallow the conventional wisdom that only an American can get the job.

His tip? British Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who is perhaps better liked in Washington than he is by his neighbour in Downing Street.

"Wolfensohn was no more American than Rupert Murdoch when he got the job a decade ago," Hewitt writes (more).

"Rato only got the IMF Managing Director's job with Latin American as well as European support, so mutatis mutandis, merely observe where Gordon Brown is now - in Africa; not for his health, nor because there are many Labour voters in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique or even South Africa. But these countries and the whole of the ACP (79 members incl South Africa) have direct or indirect representation on the Boards of the Bank (only a couple are suspended at the moment).

"Brown is qualified and he - not his rival Tony Blair - is currently in the chair of a key IMF Committee - another reason why he can bide his time before declaring his hand (which he couldn't do anyway until the current domestic UK political controversy has reached a conclusion)."

An end to Brown's long-held ambition to shoulder aside Tony Blair as British PM? It would be a political cataclysm in the UK. What we need now is for someone to suggest that Blair himself is after the job...

Posted by David Steven at 01:53 PM

Reuters features this site. Reuters has circulated a wire story describing worldbankpresident.org as "a new Web site dedicated to airing speculation on who will succeed James Wolfensohn as the next president of the World Bank is offering the rumors and gossip usually reserved for Washington's bars and back rooms."

Within an hour of posting our insider scoop yesterday that Elaine Chao may be in the running for the top World Bank job Reuters' Washington correspondent called me in Brussels to ask for further insights and what we aim to achieve with the site.

I commented that I hope this site can "shine a spotlight on the intrigues, encourage commentary and drag the Bank selection process "slightly into the open". This is already the case - with our site itself now itself the subject of news stories.

Reuters also takes seriously our Elaine Chao piece as ran through our entire list of 15 rumoured candidates. The journalist told me that our site had created "quite a buzz" in Washington.

Wolfensohn has a Washington press conference today. This is supposedly on the topic of tsunami relief and reconstruction (on the day that Indonesia and Sri Lanka seek debt relief at the Paris Club) but it is widely expected that he will have more than one question on who will succeed him.

Full reports later.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:08 AM

Not delighted about Taylor. King Banaian - a St Cloud State University economist, rather than a monarch - is glad that "heavy handed" Jim Wolfensohn is on his way out of the Bank and pleased that Robert Zoellick is no longer in line for the job.

But he isn't happy that "underwhelming" John Taylor is now tipped for the post - citing this WSF article (scroll for it) as evidence...

Posted by David Steven at 10:28 PM

A new candidate: insider tip. Worldbankpresident.org has received the following from an insider who wants to remain anonymous.

"There is one other candidate you have omitted - Elaine Chao. My source for this is Wolfensohn himself.

"When I had lunch with him a while ago, I asked him about likely candidates and stressed the need to have a woman president. He suggested Carla Hills and Elaine Chao."

Elaine Chao is currently Labor Secretary. First appointed in 2001 (and now confirmed for the second term), she was the first Asian-American woman to become a US Cabinet member. Her previous experience includes directing the Peace Corps.

The fact that Chao is married to influential Republican senator Mitch McConnell would enable her to pursue World Bank business on the hill more easily than some of her predecessors.

We are keen to hear more from Washington insiders on the selection process. Keep those e-mails coming to contact@worldbankpresident.org (set up a new free webmail account if needed).

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:46 PM

FT slams search process. The Financial Times comments that "shamefully, the US and the EU show no sign of abandoning the stitch-up by which an American runs the World Bank in return for a European running the International Monetary Fund".

It foresees "unprecedented jockeying" for this vacant position and urges the world "not to accept a second rate American candidate".

In an article (subs) comparing the current selection processes for the World Bank, WTO and OECD, the FT says "the choices matter". The people in these posts "must be capable of advancing increasingly complex agendas, balancing continued global economic leadership from the US and European Union with shared ownership by rising economic powers and the developing world".

It points out that each institution should establish a qualified and respected executive search committee to solicit applications and vet them against a transparent list of criteria. The committee would then recommend the best candidate for approval by representatives of the member states. The FT argues that "such a process should have broad appeal, not least to President Bush, who seeks to bring a more business-like approach to government."

"World Bank president is an executive post, yet the task of managing such a diverse organisation, both knowledge bank and lender, with occasional shifts of priorities by shareholder governments, is difficult in the extreme. This position above all should be open to successful reformers from the developing world. Colin Powell aside, few of the US names mentioned thus far offer either global stature or knowledge of development. At a minimum, the world should refuse to accept a second rate American candidate."

In a linked article also today the FT foresees (subs) "an unprecedented level of global jockeying" for these three important global positions. So stay tuned.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:14 AM

Bush-Clinton love-in. Bush 43 and Clinton 42 are said to be getting awful close, so perhaps the Clinton for the Bank rumours are not quite as far-fetched as they seem...

Posted by David Steven at 02:59 PM

Job for Fischer. Stan Fischer, whose name has been mentioned as a possible World Bank president, has been nominated (FT: subs) as governor of the Bank of Israel.

Posted by David Steven at 01:16 PM

Keeping Powell quiet. Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan sees two reasons why Colin Powell could get the nod.

"First, Robert McNamara pioneered the idea that a departing, war-weary Cabinet secretary could take refuge there. Second, the assignment would keep Powell from writing the tell-all memoir for which publishers are no doubt lining up to offer him huge advances."

Posted by David Steven at 11:18 AM

A hypothetical vote for Jeff Sachs for World Bank President.

Sachs, like Larry Summers, is said to hanker after the job. Both men might have made it onto a Kerry shortlist, but neither is likely to be a Bush pick...

Posted by David Steven at 10:13 AM

Europeans "ready to veto" candidates. European officials in Washington have warned that they will not hesitate to veto any American candidate for the presidency they feel is unsuitable. A precedent was set for that in 2000 when the Americans rejected the proposed European candidate for head of the IMF Caio Koch-Weser. An Agence France Presse wire story carried by TurkishPress.com also gives further insights into the current US candidates.

It comments that "[Carla] Hills' and [Anne] Krueger's age could be against them with the World Bank's five-year mandate at stake". Hills is 71 and Krueger is 68.

Christine Todd Whitman is described as "a moderate Republican" who left the White House team in May 2003 after "tough opposition from ecologists following Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol on climate change".

The piece also mentions that Colin Powell, John Taylor and Randall Tobias are still in the frame.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:28 PM

Rock star Wolfensohn. "Less than a decade ago, the bank was under siege by antiglobalization protesters," writes Harvard economist, Kenneth Rogoff, in a report card for James Wolfensohn. "Today it's popular in many quarters."

"And just as Wolfensohn has improved the bank's image, he's transformed his own, from hardnosed investment banker to rock star in the aid community. No wonder so many Bush administration officials are lining up for the job in hopes of memorializing their own image," he adds.

Posted by David Steven at 09:58 AM

Opening up? On Friday U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow said the U.S. government is asking other countries to suggest potential candidates to be next president of the World Bank. Snow told Bloomberg Radio "we're beginning a succession planning process and the search committee of the board will be asked to develop criteria that will give many countries a chance to participate in the process".

He continued: "I've talked to a number of finance ministers from other countries to give us names, suggest people, and to let them know this will be an open consultative process".

Will other governments consider this simply a token U.S. diplomatic move or will they take this invitation seriously and put up one or more candidates to challenge John Taylor and the other rumoured U.S. contenders? Watch this space, and remember to let us know (contact@worldbankpresident.org) if you hear of any other people being put forward.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:36 PM

US Executive Director resigns. Carole Brookins, US Executive Director of the World Bank since 2001, has also resigned...

Posted by David Steven at 10:10 AM

The official version. The IMF/Bank joint report offers an official version of how Wolfensohn got the job (unofficial version here).


  • The Executive Directors agreed on several basic qualifications for the post.
  • The U.S. government established a Search Committee (chaired by the Treasury Secretary) and used these qualifications in screening prospective candidates.
  • The Committee (assisted by a professional executive search consultant) researched and reviewed a preliminary list of candidates.
  • Recommendations from Member countries were reviewed, including non-U.S. citizens.
  • The U.S. Executive Director kept the Dean of the Board informed about the various stages of the search process.
  • Eventually, the U.S. President chose a finalist (Mr. Wolfensohn) who was nominated to the Board by the U.S. Executive Director.
  • The Bank's Executive Directors subsequently selected Mr. Wolfensohn as President by adoption of resolution, per usual Bank procedures.

Posted by David Steven at 09:53 AM

A more transparent process. A few years back, the Bank and IMF woke up to the fact that neither had "specific formal selection procedures" for selecting their President/Managing Director.

What to do? A joint report was presented to Executive Directors of the Bank and Fund in Spring 2001. Five principles were recommended for future succession processes.

  • Executive Directors should establish clear criteria for identifying, nominating, and selecting qualified candidates for the posts;
  • Executive Directors should be informed in a timely manner regarding candidates, including their credentials and knowledge of the institution;
  • There should be a channel for facilitating smooth communication;
  • Transparency and accountability are critical, subject to the need to protect the privacy of candidates; and
  • Any decision concerning the selection process at the Bank and Fund should take into account any impact on the selection processes at other international financial institutions.

Fairly straightforward stuff, one might think. But, even so, the report was shelved:

"[World Bank] Executive Directors considered the Draft Joint Report of the Bank Working Group to Review the Process for Selection of the President and the Fund Working Group to Review the Process for Selection of the Managing Director.

"Executive Directors shared the importance of the objective of a more transparent and open selection process and endorsed the Report as guidance for future selection processes. This endorsement does not constitute a formal decision of Executive Directors adopting the specific recommendations in the Report."

Posted by David Steven at 09:38 AM

A challenge to the process? The Economic Times in India comments that “developing countries are expected to push for a broader range of candidates and to contend the practice of giving the presidency to an American is outdated”. Let’s certainly hope so.

At present the concrete signs of a challenge to the US dominance of this important global position are slight indeed, but we will report early next week on how developing countries and their allies are getting organised behind the scenes. One well-placed developing country representative today told worldbankpresident.org that there is "a fighting chance" of changing the system.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:26 PM

The Job Advert. "WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: Must attempt to eradicate poverty, AIDS, corruption, and illiteracy in developing world within five-year term. Desired skills include working knowledge of economics, management training, and the ability to cooperate and listen to G-7, IMF, NGO community, and the developing countries. People skills a plus. American citizenship a prerequisite."

Head over to Dan Drezner's site to see more...

Posted by David Steven at 11:38 AM

Taylor tipped, Powell and McPherson also running. U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs John Taylor "appeared to move ahead as a top contender for the job" in the eyes of Reuters late yesterday. His position overseeing the international financial institutions for Treasury since mid-2001 certainly makes him a powerful player in the Bank.

Italian TV station Rai Uno is among those who see Colin Powell's speeches during his tour in tsunami-struck Asia as a warm-up for a serious candidacy for the Bank position.

Reuters keeps Tobias and Hills in the frame.

Peter McPherson, the former head of Michigan State University who served as Bush's point person on rebuilding Iraq's financial system is also still in the running, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:32 AM

Euro problems with Taylor. France's Les Echos reports (subs) that European governments may try to veto John Taylor (also in the frame to replace Greenspan) if George Bush puts him forward for World Bank president.

Apparently, they're unhappy that Taylor may try to stop concessional lending...

Posted by David Steven at 01:01 PM

Zoellick for State Department. The WSJ confirms that Zoellick is out of the running for the World Bank...

Update: Here's the official press release and, as a bonus, a typically gauche offering from BBC online.

Posted by David Steven at 10:30 AM

Zoellick no longer Bank favourite. It won't be Zoellick, according to the Nelson Report, an insiders' briefing that circulates around Washington (not online), but Bill Clinton may be worth an outside bet!

"The Bob Zoellick for Deputy Secretary of State under Condi Rice rumor is true, bearing in mind that the gods can always change their minds," Chris Nelson writes.

So what's Zoellick's thinking?

"The consensus, based on cynical realism, and not hard facts, is that Rice... may run for Sen Dianne Feinstein's California seat, up in 2006, leaving Zoellick as the logical successor...

"Less machiavellian reasoning includes that Zoellick calculated he wasn't going to get the nod for World Bank from President Bush... and, in any event, the Bank is mired in scandal and controversy, is fundamentally unmanageable, and is in line for holy hell on Capitol Hill."

Nelson reckons that Powell is still ruling himself out of the running [but past Presidents have done that to no avail], "despite what may look like an audition tour this week in tsunami tragedy-ridden Asia."

So if not Zoellick or Powell, then perhaps Bill Clinton. Why? To generate some bipartisan warmth. To have a Democrat to soak up heat at the Bank. To put Bill back in the limelight (at the expense of Hillary). Even to see whether the "World Bank scandal factor" can tarnish the Clinton name.

Far from a done deal, Nelson concludes (and probably pie-in-the-sky, we say), but well worth the speculation...

Posted by David Steven at 10:04 AM

Jeremy Warner backs Colin Powell for the job, claiming that Powell is still being strongly favoured for the role.

This despite Powell ruling himself out of the running...

Posted by David Steven at 11:44 AM

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.

Posted by David Steven at 11:21 AM

A medieval process. The World Bank needs a new leader at the same time as the World Trade Organisation. Comparisons between the processes followed by these two powerful public institutions are instructive. Despite all its talk of good governance for others, the Bank's approach is medieval.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has many flaws and its negotiations are riddled with power-plays. Poorer countries have to work extremely hard to form coalitions to get their views across, as at the Cancun negotiations in 2003. But its negotiations are at least based on a one country one vote approach which does give such opportunities for weaker countries to exert themselves.

By comparison the World Bank is a completely closed shop - with minimal efforts to claim that counties are being somehow "consulted" about the US government's choice of candidate. A European official quoted by Reuters yesterday was only able to bleat that they: “hoped the head of the bank would be chosen based on the candidate's qualifications, not along political lines".

Governments have put forward four candidates for the race to become the next head of the WTO, including three from developing countries. They are Jaya Krishna Cuttaree, Mauritius foreign affairs and trade minister, Carlos Pérez del Castillo of Uruguay, Luiz Felipe de Seixas Corrêa of Brazil and former European Commission trade commissioner Pascal Lamy of France. The term of the current head - Supachai Panitchpakdi - term expires on 31st August.

There will be a meeting of the WTO’s general council on 26 January for the four candidates to present themselves formally to the member countries. The Daily Times this week ruled the race “too close” to call. New rules have, however, been introduced to prevent the deadlock which in 1999 resulted in the failure of WTO member governments to agree on one candidate and a compromise to allow each of the two to serve three year terms.

In 2003 the World Health Organisation also gave a positive example of how an international public service organisation should be run. It organised public hustings where the prospective candidates announced what they would do if they headed the organisation and fielded questions from interested parties.

For all its talk about good governance for developing countries the World Bank is medieval in its approach to selecting its own leader, with the appointment remaining the gift of the US Administration. Other organisations have shown that there are other ways.

Further analysis and links on World Bank governance (Bretton Woods Project).

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:39 AM

James Wolfensohn has formally informed the Dean of the World Bank Board, Saudi Arabia's Yahya Alyahya, of his decision to retire.

"I would like to retire at the end of my term and would suggest the board seek a new president for the institution as I would not wish to be considered for a third term," he wrote in an email.

"It has been a true privilege to serve the institution. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity and cannot imagine working with a finer group of colleagues."

Posted by David Steven at 06:14 PM

Christine Todd Whitman was touted yesterday by the Washington Post as a potential candidate for World Bank president.

Strange they didn't mention her attack on George Bush II, carried (subs) by the paper the previous day.

Whitman's memoir will soon be published, in which she "flays Bush and his team for ignoring the country's middle."

"The numbers show that while the president certainly did energize his political base, the red state/blue state map changed barely at all -- suggesting that he had missed an opportunity to significantly broaden his support in the most populous areas of the country," Whitman writes in her book.

"The Karl Rove strategy to focus so rigorously on the narrow conservative base won the day, but we must ask at what price to governing and at what risk to the future of the party."

Posted by David Steven at 11:51 AM

"Every World Bank project operates like the invasion of Iraq." Edward Luttwak, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tells Canada's Globe and Mail.

"People who don't know the language penetrate into a country, they want to do good, and they end up having unintended consequences. The place needs to be shut down. It can be replaced by a line item in the budget called 'emergency help.' "

The Globe and Mail throws two more candidates for president into the pot: Stan Fischer, ex-IMF, and Peter McPherson.

Posted by David Steven at 10:02 AM

"Over the past ten years, Jim Wolfensohn has been an outstanding leader of the World Bank," says US Treasury Secretary, John Snow.

"I have worked closely with him over the past two years on a number of initiatives including President Bush's grants and measurable results programs, the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, among countless other issues. I particularly want to commend him for his leadership on anti-corruption efforts.

"I am rewarded to have known him as a colleague and a friend. Because of Jim's leadership, the World Bank today is a more dynamic and effective development organization.

"I view his accomplishments as historic. Jim's tireless efforts to assist the world's poor have been marked by unmatched passion and accomplishment. The world's poorest people have clearly benefited from Jim's tenure at the World Bank. He deserves great thanks and praise for his service.

"I look forward to working with him over the next six months as he continues to lead the Bank. His counsel will be invaluable as we go through the transition process."

Posted by David Steven at 08:30 AM

Two further names are thrown into the ring in an updated version of the Bloomberg article linked to below: Jack Hennessy, ex-Credit Suisse First Boston CEO and Anne Krueger, deputy MD at the IMF.

Posted by David Steven at 04:07 PM

Bob Zoellick is an outlier in the Bush economic team," writes Wolfensohn biographer, Sebastian Mallaby.

"He is not an ideologue. He is not a former private-sector chieftain. He has not been dismissed yet. Whereas the style of the Bush people is measured, plain-spoken and determinedly unflustered, Zoellick is intense, wonkish and furiously competitive. Rather like his short mustache, he bristles with a fiery energy."

Zoellick is a "frenetic multilateralist", Mallaby reckons, travelling 32,000 miles in February 2004 alone, giving him "endless openings to schmooze and bargain."

"No matter whether Zoellick's [trade negotiation] tactics work," he adds, "he has built an international network and a reputation as a dynamo. His hopscotching around Africa this week may or may not create useful trade momentum; but it is surely adding to the Zoellick brand, and to his own career prospects. Zoellick for Treasury secretary? Zoellick for Middle East envoy? Zoellick for the World Bank presidency?"

Talking to Minnesota Public Radio, Mallaby argues that Zoellick is in for a tough time if he does get the Bank job:

"The bank is virtually impossible to manage. Its board, consisting of 24 directors from member countries, meets twice a week and peppers the bank staff with questions and directives. One year, the board wants progress on universal childhood education. The next year it calls for more action on AIDS or the environment…

If Bob Zoellick takes on the World Bank, he'll have to rethink the way it's run. Giving every member a say is nice in principal, but families are seldom run like democracies. The bank will carry out its mission best if its boss is free to call the shots.”

Posted by David Steven at 03:38 PM

Robert Zoellick is being touted as the favourite to become the next World Bank President, especially after Colin Powell ruled himself out of the running.

Activists, however, are not happy.

David Waskow, from Friends of the Earth International, told Reuters that the US Trade Czar was too closely tied to US business interests to do a good job.

David Bryden, from the Global AIDS Alliance, is also opposed to Zoellick, accusing him of promoting trade agreements that favour big pharma at the expense of poor people in need of access to medicine.

"That's a record that's deeply disturbing not only to us but to a lot of AIDS organizations," he said.

US business leaders appear more keen.

"What's needed is someone who can really integrate these (developing) countries into the world economy. Otherwise you're just throwing money down a hole," said Frank Vargo, vice president for international affairs at the National Association of Manufacturers.

Posted by David Steven at 03:30 PM

The Washington Post floats a selection of candidates for the Bank job: Robert Zoellick, the U.S. Trade Representative; John Taylor, the undersecretary of the treasury for international affairs; Randall Tobias, the US's global AIDS coordinator; Christine Todd Whitman, the former director of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Carla Hills, who was the elder Bush's trade rep.

Posted by David Steven at 03:09 PM

Wolfensohn's planned retirement receives some coverage from the international press, despite more pressing concerns in South Asia.

The Australian headlines its report: "Aussie bank chief falls foul of US," and reckons that the next President will switch the Bank's focus back to major infrastructure projects.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, digs up a number of the great and good to assess Wolfensohn's presidency.

Nobel Prize Winner, Joseph Stiglitz, is enthusiastic: "The magnitude of the change was really very significant. He saw development in human terms. It wasn't just a bank, it was the impact that the World Bank had on the lives of individuals.''

Carnegie Mellon University's Allan Meltzer disagrees: "The Wolfensohn era is over. I don't think that his way of going about economic development fit with the Bush administration... The bank is a dysfunctional institution, it puts a premium on making loans. It lacks the idea that there has to be incentives for development.''

Paul O'Neill, former Treasury Secretary, suggests the bank has been slow to demonstrate results: "One of the things that would be useful for the World Bank to have is monthly regular reports on changes that affect people's lives. We have a fascination on how many jobs are created in America each month, yet we don't have the same interest in more basic measures elsewhere.''

Posted by David Steven at 02:54 PM

Wolfensohn likely to retire in 2005. James Wolfensohn, the current World Bank President, has confirmed that he is likely to step down as World Bank President this year.

Wolfensohn told ABC-TV's "This Week" programme on 2nd January: "I've had 10 years and that's probably enough. My understanding and my belief is that probably during the course of this year, I'll give over to someone else."

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:19 PM

Who we are - Alex Wilks. Alex Wilks is a long-standing activist and analyst on World Bank and IMF issues. He runs the European Network on Debt and Development - based in Brussels.

From 1995 until last year he was Coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project, a UK-based watchdog of the World Bank and IMF. He was also heavily involved in establishing IFIwatchnet - a collaborative web initiative of 60 groups worldwide who monitor the International Financial Institutions.

I want this website to shine a light on the financial and political interests around the World Bank and to add to the pressure to change the governance of the institution.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 12:00 AM

Who we are - David Steven. I'm a journalist, researcher, and consultant.

I ran Daily Summit from the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the World Summit on the Information Society; am MD of River Path Associates, and blog sporadically at David Steven etcetera.

I'm here to make sure worldbankpresident.org is open to all-comers and covers as many sides of the story as possible.

Posted by David Steven at 12:00 AM


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