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And then there's Balcerowicz. In a letter to the FT, Forbes columnist and John Hopkins economist, Steve Hanke endorses Leszek Balcerowicz for World Bank president (Balcerowicz has also been mentioned by the NYT).
Posted by David Steven at 11:40 AM
Bono for the Bank.
The Los Angeles Times is the latest paper to unilaterally back a candidate for World Bank president.
Bono may not be an economist, the paper argues, but he'd have plenty of expertise to call on at the Bank.
"Bono could enhance the World Bank's image and sell its poverty-reduction mission far more effectively than the other deserving candidates being mentioned for the job...
"President Bush, who has a large say in who will get the job, should realize that Brand America and the branding of both the World Bank and development generally would benefit greatly if Bono gets the nod."
Posted by David Steven at 11:30 AM
In a letter to the FT, Jagdish Bhagwati puffs Ernesto Zedillo ("huge stature, graciousness and total familiarity with the complex issues of development") and knifes Wolfensohn ("a crisis of leadership" at the Bank).
Posted by David Steven at 08:43 AM
Posted by David Steven at 02:43 PM
FT declares for Zedillo.
George Bush will be tempted, the Financial Times believes, to nominate an "American mediocrity" as World Bank president.
The FT likes Zedillo's pro-market credentials, his track record driving political reform, and his academic training as an economist.
"Nominating Mr Zedillo would be more than wise, it would also be in US interests. After bruising years of discord, the US should go out of its way to demonstrate its commitment to the world's most important instruments of multilateral co-operation.
"It is no less in its interests to show its sensitivity to developing countries in general and its neighbours (of which Mexico is the most important), in particular. Nothing could more cheaply demonstrate such wisdom and such benevolence than the nomination of a distinguished Mexican as the next bank president."
More on Zedillo later...
Posted by David Steven at 12:12 PM
"By treating the [World Bank presidency] as if it's an ambassadorship to Liechtenstein," the New York Times writes, "we fail to consider the most highly qualified candidates and too easily fall into the trap of using the bank as a tool of American policy."
John Taylor would be "a very bad choice", as he's "globally unpopular for his eccentric policy views and poor leadership skills."
His nomination would have a silver lining, the paper believes. The resultant furore would push the Bank into a better selection process for the future.
Posted by David Steven at 09:04 AM
Woicke in the running? Worldbankpresident.org has received an anonymous 4am phone call alerting us that Peter Woicke may be lining up for the World Bank president job. Woicke, the outgoing head of the private sector support arm of the World Bank Group (the IFC), is apparently becoming a U.S. citizen in the next couple of weeks.
We realise that this is circumstantial evidence, at best, that he is going to be the next head of the Bank Group as a whole. But somebody has taken the trouble to call us, so there may be something behind it.
Knud Voecking, a campaigner from German NGO Urgewald who tracks the activities of the IFC, commented: "I guess it is highly unlikely that the Bush administration will support someone without a background in the industry [oil, gas, mining] or without a neocon background. Woicke was - at least upfront - a supporter of human rights regardless of the circumstances and in favour of all four core labour standards. This makes him a leftist for the Bush people".
Woicke is certainly not a leftist by everyone's standards. Before joining the World Bank Group in January 1999 he worked for 30 years for investment bank J.P. Morgan. In this respect he is similar to Wolfensohn, who also took on U.S. citizenship in order to become Bank president.
But are Woicke's Washington connections strong enough to take him to the top? Or could it be that our late night phone call from the States was part of a rumoured misinformation campaign by the White House? I heard this week that Christine Todd Whitman's name was floated by the Administration as a decoy.
Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:35 AM
Hustling to become president. Wolfensohn's networking and power plays to become World Bank president in 1995 are spelled out in today's Sydney Morning Herald. The article describes who Wolfensohn called, who opposed him, and the ultimatum that he laid down in March 1995 demanding that the White House make its decision within a week, or Wolfensohn would withdraw his candidacy.
At the time, Wolfensohn's path to the Bank was blocked by Robert Rubin, Treasury Secretary (who favoured Larry Summers). And by Jan Piercy, the U.S. Executive Director on the Bank's board (and former Wellesley College room mate of Hilary Clinton), who considered Wolfensohn "egocentric" and resented his efforts to bypass the official search process.
In the end Al Gore and his chief of staff saved the day for Wolfensohn. The article describes how Gore received Wolfensohn and led him through a checklist of issues: the environment, the role of women in development, the bank's managerial challenges, and so on. "Wolfensohn had read the literature on the bank; he knew the criticism, and somehow conveyed a sense that he understood everybody's arguments and could embrace the reasonable bits of each of them".
People who have been in meetings with Wolfensohn, as I have, will know exactly what the author is talking about.
The Sydney Morning Herald article draws heavily from the interesting but controversial book by Sebastian Mallaby, The World's Banker.
The Herald comments: "there are no clear rules about how jobs get dished out in Washington. You call someone who owes you one, or someone who would like to be owed one; that someone calls another someone who owes somebody else one; and the calls ripple this way and that way until, if you are successful, they reach the Oval Office".
For Wolfensohn's previous attempt to become Bank president under Jimmy Carter, see our previous post.
To comment, or give your tips on any rippling Washington phone calls you hear about, join the debate on our Forum.
Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:17 AM
Europeans push candidates for UNDP. We reported last week the claim by outgoing UNDP head Malloch Brown that his successor would be chosen in an open process. Now, however, three European countries are pushing their own candidates for this position third in the UN hierarchy.
The names announced in press articles yesterday include Valerie Amos, Hilde Johnson and Jan Pronk. They are all current or former development ministers, in the UK, Norway and The Netherlands respectively.
Thanks to Brian, an active contributor to our new Forum, for this tip. He comments "Europe is determined to keep the UNDP job".
Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:08 AM
Her article in CounterPunch criticises adminstration officials for floating names whose "expertise lies in running drug companies or negotiating trade deals".
Martinez wants a visionary president, with a track record in poverty reduction, sustainable development, workers' rights and the environment. She does not throw any names into the pot...
Posted by David Steven at 04:29 PM
Taylor watch. The New York Times is sceptical about John Taylor's plans for World Bank debt forgiveness ("an accounting gimmick"), while the Washington Post repeats speculation that Taylor will soon be replaced by Tim Adams at the Treasury.
Posted by David Steven at 01:19 PM
The statement, sent to ministers on the Bank's Board of Governors, is signed by a wide range of organisations. They complain that the Bank remains "rooted in an outmoded model of governance" and demand "processes that provide for more transparency, direct civic input, and public accountability".
Selecting the Bank's new president behind closed doors is unacceptable, they warn. "We call on the establishment of a transparent and accountable process for the selection of the next World Bank President. The process should provide for the selection on the basis of explicit criteria, including the commitment to a genuine democratization of the institution, and be open to candidates from all countries. Furthermore, we call on the IFIs themselves to support such a process. This time around, IFIs will have to demonstrate that they are the appropriate channels for development resources, and one part of proving that is accepting responsibility for their own governance".
Have your say on our new forum
Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:33 AM
Latest on McPherson bid. Today’s news is that McPherson has not been nominated and is playing it cool. One contact of mine bumped into McPherson yesterday and asked him if he was standing for World Bank president. His response? “I was president of Michigan State University”. Not a "no", but not very revealing.
Another contact who has recently met a couple of Executive Directors to the Bank said that no decision has yet been taken. They expect a nomination to be made and agreed within the next 30-60 days. Apparently a committee has been set up including Condi Rice and John Snow to make the final decision/recommendation to the President but the White House staff we mentioned earlier were apparently heavily involved in drawing up the shortlist.
A senior figure at the Center for Global Development said that, if appointed, McPherson would have “a calming influence” on the Bank. I agree that the Bank has over-stretched itself. But this is faint praise indeed.
NEW: Have your say on the process and candidates on our forum.
Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:38 PM
Bring in the police.
Peter McPherson - one of the leading candidates for World Bank president - provoked an interesting Bank-related furore a few years back.
The group, which included veterans of various anti-globalization protests, was infliltrated by Officer James Gonzales, who had instructions to find out whether violence was planned. According to police, there was no wrongdoing and the officer was pulled out.
When the story broke, McPherson described it as "a classic issue in a democracy" - the need to balance freedom and security.
Some members of MSU faculty were unsure that balance had been properly struck. 59 wrote to him to denounce the decision:
"As faculty, we were appalled to learn that the MSU police sent an undercover officer to infiltrate a student organization. We find this contrary to basic principles of political association and free speech.
"The use of undercover police in organizations that are engaging in legal and important political discussions is an intimidating and unjustifiable intrusion into the exercise of political rights."
See also, this interesting assessment of McPherson's time at MSU by Daniel Howes of Detroit News.
Posted by David Steven at 11:38 AM
McPherson to feed world.
If Peter McPherson does - as rumours suggest - get the nomination as president of the World Bank, expect a greater focus on failed states - McPherson served on Nancy Birdsall's Commission on Weak States and US National Security - and agriculture, especially in Africa.
"Recognizing that biotechnology must be applied within regulatory frameworks," he suggests. "We call for enhanced and expanded uses of biotechnology that can help solve, not just ease, agricultural problems.
"From pest management to livestock husbandry, from plant breeding to soil science the biotechnology is in place to help bring about a revolution, not merely an improvement there."
McPherson, who has criticised the Bank for allowing its investment in agriculture to fall, has been reviving US interest in the area.
According to Andrew Natsios, current USAID adminstrator, "When Peter McPherson was the administrator of USAID in the Reagan administration - a very good friend of mine; he's now the president of Michigan State University - AID was spending $1.3 billion a year in agricultural development - primarily in Africa, but all over the world - $1.3 billion.
"When I arrived at AID a year and a half ago, we were spending $250 million. We dropped a billion dollars in 15 years. The entire donor community, the banks and the U.N. all withdrew in a major way from the agriculture sector, which I think was an unmitigated disaster.
"It was the worst decision made in the international donor community in the last 15 years."
Posted by David Steven at 11:14 AM
Screw the French.
With rumours flying that Peter McPherson will receive the nomination for World Bank president, we're sure he'll be counting on the whole-hearted support of the French government.
An unnamed senior military officer remembers a cigar-chewing banker, Republican partisan and academic leader, whose mission in Iraq was keeping the French out.
"The officer laughed hard remembering this. He said, 'He was so fucking paranoid about the French! He was absolutely rabid! He wanted to make sure they didn’t get into anything.'"
"'We went through this discussion about the mobile phones, the networks, because you know the French are big in this region in mobile phones. McPherson wanted to find a way to construct a public tender that would' - he laughed again - 'that would somehow exclude the French.'"
Posted by David Steven at 10:00 AM
UNDP - not impressed.
A World Bank consultant writes in, distinctly unimpressed by the UNDP's move towards greater transparency in selecting its new head.
Our correspondent goes on to point out that Malloch Brown didn't enjoy official support from any country, but got the job through skillful lobbying.
"The UNDP selection process is hardly an open process, and it will never be one either. After all, Annan and Malloch Brown will decide, in the end who will replace Malloch Brown at UNDP."
Posted by David Steven at 09:19 AM
McPherson nominated? Has Peter McPherson has been nominated as World Bank president? One well-placed source indicates that the U.S. government has presented McPherson’s name to the Secretary of the World Bank board. Other people in Washington, however, disagree, saying that McPherson is likely to make the shortlist, but that no nomination has yet been made. The obscurity surrounding the process, as usual, prevents a clear picture.
While we try to get more information on whether McPherson is the man, here is some more background about him.
In 2003, McPherson was Financial Coordinator for Iraqi Reconstruction. He is a long-standing friend of Dick Cheney, since serving with him in the White House under Gerald Ford. Interestingly, McPherson was Deputy Director of Ford’s Presidential Personnel Office, perhaps picking up useful experience on how the Administration picks people for jobs such as Bank president.
His previous experience includes some significant development posts. Under Reagan he was Chair of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. export credit agency, then directed USAID. From 1987 to 1989 he was Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held until March 1989. In 1993 he became president of Michigan State University, a position he retired from recently.
He is currently the Co-Chair of the Partnership to Cut Poverty and Hunger in Africa, which seeks to mobilize more, and more effective, aid. Also on the board of this initiative are four current or past African presidents.
He also has impressive corporate connections, having held a senior position in the Bank of America, and being currently on the board at Dow Jones & Co. (which owns the Wall Street Journal).
He recognised in an interview that his experience in debt negotiations was mainly from the creditor side (at Bank of America). But he claimed that his experience in Iraq converted him to another perspective. "Now I'm on the debtor side", he commented. If he does end up heading the World Bank, he will certainly be in the thick of the current hot debt debates.
One developing country representative I spoke to in Washington earlier said that when he had heard McPherson speak, he had the impression he was a “classic get the prices right and the rest will follow” person who had failed to realise the complexity of the Iraq situation.
McPherson has certainly made some clumsy comments in speeches and media appearances. Of Iraq he said, for example, "putting this together is just such fun." Worldbankpresident.org will pull together some further regrettable quotes from McPherson and other strongly tipped candidates in the coming days.
The current European visit of Condoleeza Rice and the imminent visit of Bush mean that European governments are on their best behaviour towards the USA. Blair has today expended political capital backing Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General who has many U.S. critics. Will he go further and tackle the U.S. on the Bank appointment? Or is it more likely that the U.S. government will face little opposition when they do announce their candidate, today or later this month? I fear the latter.
Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:28 PM
UNDP goes for open process.
The UN is inviting nominations of qualified candidates for the job of replacing Mark Malloch Brown as head of UNDP, rather than allowing the Europeans to perform the traditional stitch-up.
Malloch Brown, now in charge of UN reform, has criticised the process by which top international jobs are parcelled out ("very little proactive outreach to find the world's best; an extraordinary recycling of the same names for each job").
"I'm sure [the Europeans] are swallowing hard that the first [change in procedure is for] a job considered in their own bailiwick. But Europe recognises it is long overdue that one of the major development institutions is led by someone from a developing country. We have thrown ourselves on the mercy of Europe to be statesmanlike."
What's the betting that some European governments are wondering whether giving up the UNDP job will help them advance higher geopolitical priorities - such as embarassing the US government on the world stage?
Posted by David Steven at 03:49 PM
U.S snubs Bank staff on consultation.
The World Bank Group Staff Association has written to the US's Acting Executive Director, Bob Holland, demanding a full staff consultation as part of the process for nominating a new Bank president.
"With major changes in how the Bank does its business, budgetary pressures and the proposals of the Organizational Effectiveness Task Force, the new president is likely to have a huge impact on staff," writes association chair, Alison Cave.
"I therefore would like to ask you to convey to Secretary Snow the wish of the Staff Association, representing World Bank Group staff, to be consulted on this appointment."
"The World Bank's presidential nomination process is being conducted in a fashion that preserves the World Bank's mission of reducing poverty through sustained growth and promoting responsible international development."
He promises to pass the Staff Association views to his "authorities".
"Sure, the US government has shown itself to be very open in this process, no doubt they would *love* to include the SA in all the fun!" comments the Bank staffer who passed these documents along.
If the US government isn't up for it, perhaps we should arrange a staff consultation on this site...
Posted by David Steven at 11:13 AM
We have received a strong plug for David Mulford, currently U.S. ambassador to India.
The e-mail, which reached us from someone who has “worked at the World Bank and seen Mulford in operation while working at the Treasury”, argues that “Mulford is without doubt better qualified for the job than virtually all of the people on your current list--including John Taylor whom you seem to tout as the current front runner”. In the 1980s, at the height of the Reaganite structural adjustment era, Mulford used to occupy the position that Taylor now holds in the U.S. Treasury.
Prior to that, Mulford was Chairman International of Credit Suisse First Boston, based in London. From 1992 to 2003, Dr. Mulford was responsible for leading Credit Suisse First Boston's worldwide, large-scale privatisation business and other corporate and government advisory assignments. In this capacity he would have benefited personally from the controversial wave of privatisation overseen by the World Bank in many developing countries.
Indeed Mulford is subject of a judicial investigation in Argentina because of his part in arranging a swap of $29.5 billion of old Argentine government bonds in 2001. An article in Euromoney magazine records that Argentinian parliamentarian Mario Cafiero has filed a case in the Argentine federal court alleging that then president Domingo Cavallo and other government officials met investment bank officers just before the debt swap to alter its terms to secure an additional profit of around $150 million, in addition to the official commission. In April 2004 the Argentinian court agreed to undertake further investigations of this matter.
Our anonymous e-mail correspondent does not mention this episode and instead attempts to trumpet Mulford’s positive development credentials: “early in his career he spent considerable time in Zambia researching a thesis on Zambian independence”. They conclude “I have no doubt that he has the stature, ability and sensitivity to be an excellent leader of the Bank”.
However, one old-time Bank-watcher in Washington I spoke to yesterday strongly disagreed. He said that Mulford had a poor reputation among colleagues when at the U.S. Treasury in the 1980s and made an unsuccessful bid for the Bank presidency in 1986. My contact's conclusion: Mulford is not a sufficiently heavyweight political figure to be given the Bank job now. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker is a much more likely bet, according to my source.
Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:18 AM
Taylor snubs Brown.
In what may his last hurrah at the US Treasury, leading World Bank presidential contender John Taylor has poured cold water on the UK's poposals for an International Finance Facility for developing countries.
Posted by David Steven at 06:31 PM
Insider speaks out.
"An open process with a search panel should be the approach for all multilateral institutions," says Peter Woicke, outgoing executive vice president of the World Bank's private lending arm, the International Finance Corporation.
Woicke was speaking to the FT, which believes his willingness to publicly oppose a backroom deal reflects wider concern within the Bank about the succession process.
The FT mentions Randall Tobias and Peter McPherson for the job, before noting (slightly waspishly) that: "outside the US, Colin Powell is seen a very strong candidate."
Posted by David Steven at 09:29 AM
Taylor and the Fed.
John Taylor may be well-backed for World Bank president, but he's also connected with another job - filling Alan Greenspan's shoes at the Federal Reserve.
"When he was appointed (to Treasury) it was with the expectation that he would be the next Fed chairman. But he had his shot and he blew it. He hasn't stood out as a leader in the administration, which he was expected to do."
So does Taylor get the World Bank as a consolation prize or will he be leaving Washington empty-handed? Do tell us if you know...
Posted by David Steven at 08:48 PM
Taylor getting close?
We're wondering whether John Taylor is closing in on the job. Yesterday, we reported speculation he's on his way from the Treasury, while today's exclusive on Bush's selection panel further bolsters his front-runner status.
Then there's the third member of the panel - wunderkind Kirstin Forbes. Who gave her her first government job? None other than one John Taylor:
"I had been out running one beautiful afternoon," she recalls, "came back and there was a message on the machine, 'This is John Taylor, the undersecretary of international affairs at the Treasury Department, please call me back.' And I thought it was a joke."
[All we have on the selection panel, and its members, here]
Posted by David Steven at 08:10 PM
The White House Kingmakers.
Three intriguing - and potentially important - nuggets reach us that throw a little light on the process for selecting the next World Bank president.
The selection panel, charged with compiling a list of possible candidates, comprises:
Shirzad (pic) is an international trade attorney, who left private practice to take a succession of US government trade jobs. His last post was working for Condi Rice as Senior Director for International Economic Affairs - now he's number 3 to Rice's replacement as National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley.
He then worked as a US-based deputy to Paul Bremer, during Bremer's term running Iraq. His role: "someone senior in Washington who could navigate the bureaucracy [for Bremer] and deal with Capitol Hill." Jeffrey, a prominent Republican contributor, is said to be "conservative but pragmatic".
Forbes (pic), meanwhile, brings some development expertise to the job. She has worked at the World Bank ("so exciting"), Morgan Stanley and US Treasury, and is currently on secondment to the Council of Economic Advisers from the MIT-Sloan School of Management. She's an international finance and development specialist - her work on contagion has been published by the Bank. A Young Global Leader, she's a Davos regular, giving a speech on Argentina there last week.
We're leading the pack on this story - you won't find coverage, as yet, elsewhere in the media. Confirmation has been hard to come by. Forbes is not returning calls, while the White House has not yet decided whether it is safe to talk to us.
Activists, however, are bristling. Manish Bapna, director of the Bank Information Center, comments:
"We have been told that these White House staff at the Council of Economic Affairs and the National Security Council are drawing up the shortlist and making a recommendation for the next Bank President. This is strictly a White House appointment and is being seen through a security/foreign policy lens."
Posted by David Steven at 07:39 PM
Taylor moves on.
John Taylor is rumoured to be on his way out of the US Treasury, with Reuters reporting that Tim Adams (policy director on the Bush campaign) will replace him, maybe as soon as this week.
Posted by David Steven at 08:59 AM
An Ł8200 job ad.
The appointment of the World Bank president, writes Richard Adams in the Guardian, is "as open and accountable as the bad old days of the Suharto regime in Indonesia."
"The danger of another Republican appointment is another nobody, and the bank's focus on poverty being again diverted in favour of US bilateralism," Adams argues. "It also leaves the bank vulnerable to the turf war breaking out between it and the IMF. The signs are not good, given some of the candidates being bandied around in Washington."
"The website worldbankpresident.org lists a series of rumoured names, including a conservative Republican senator, an old classmate of President Bush at prep school, and one of the consultants of the US's postwar Iraq economy. Such an appointment would be seen as moving the bank back to the periphery of Washington policy-making."
It will be interesting to hear what the Guardian makes of the front-runners for the job - such as John Taylor or Elaine Chao. More on them, and their chances, over the next few days - so if any reader has info (current or background) on these or any other candidate, do get in touch...
Posted by David Steven at 08:12 AM
"Keep track of the rumored candidates, power plays and buzz."
"Offering the rumors and gossip usually reserved for Washington's bars and back rooms."
WBpresident.org in the news
Wolfowitz-Riza-Cleveland: New Evil-doing?
"Accomplished and intelligent… sifts through the speculation and brings you the latest news."
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