About Jesse Griffiths

Director of the European Network on Debt and Development, Eurodad www.eurodad.org

Time for a woman president

Disclaimer: this blog is about the World Bank President, not Hilary Clinton

It’s obviously (well past) time to end the US stranglehold on the job, but surely it’s also time to end the male stranglehold too. Lant Pritchard from the Center for Global Development’s blog notes that he can think of five well qualified women candidates, just among people he’s met.

The UN Secretary General selection process is also going on at the same time, and depressingly, after three rounds of informal Security Council voting, men are in top positions. There’s an active Campaign to Elect a UN Secretary General that’s trying to change this for the UN. Time to start a similar campaign for the World Bank?

3 week application period – are you kidding?

So, the blog is back, now that the World Bank board has officially launched a selection process for the next World Bank President. A task this big takes a bit of time, right? Not according to the Bank’s board who leave a little over three weeks for accepting nominations. Three weeks! When we’re selecting interns, we leave at least a month, normally 6 weeks to give good candidates the chance to think about it and submit a decent application. But apparently selecting the head of one of the world’s most powerful International Financial Institutions is a less rigorous process…

It’s already clear that the US is trying to stitch up a second term for the US-backed incumbent, Jim Kim. Do we really need to by emphasise that in 2016 it’s not acceptable for the US to choose who gets to be the head of the World Bank – an institution that only operates in developing countries?

What should the correct selection process look like? This is what I wrote last time round:

“If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:

  • Public interviews. It will simply not be credible if the Board selects a candidate behind closed doors with no one else able to see how the candidates stood up to questioning.
  • Manifestos for candidates. Every candidate should be required to set out what he or she think the main challenges facing the Bank are and how they would deal with them as President.
  • Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
  • Transparent voting. All countries should vote individually, not through their constituencies, and should announce who they are voting for and why.

Of course, none of this would prevent the backroom deals that the US will use to ensure its candidate gets in, but at least everyone would be able to judge who the best candidate really is, and learn a lot more about what they stand for. None of these are difficult to organise, and all of them take place routinely at national level for senior public servants.  Why not for the World Bank?”

These seem to me to still be extremely reasonable demands (set out in much more detail in this paper on selecting the IMF boss.)  The first demand we should all be making is a significant extension to the application process: 3 months (or more) would be much more appropriate than 3 weeks.

Race over, blog bows out. Until next time

With the dust settling after the first contested World Bank Presidential selection process, this blog will be bowing out. We hope we’ve added some transparency to a pretty intransparent process, and will definitely be back next time to demand more change, share ideas and open space for public debate.

The final word goes to the G24 group of developing countries at the World Bank.  This is from the communiqué they issued last Friday:

We recognize that for the first time in the history of the World Bank there was an open process for the selection of the President that involved a debate on the priorities and the future of the institution.

Future selection processes must build on this process, but must be transparent and truly merit-based.

 

 

No transparency, no legitimacy: the backlash begins

A great op-ed in the Guardian by fellow blogger (and former colleague) Peter Chowla – he’s perhaps too modest to post if for himself, so I’ve done that for him below.  Also signs that the inevitable backlash against the winner’s legitimacy – given the lack of transparency of the process – has begun, with critical comments from Oxfam and Save the Children in this piece.

Here’s Peter’s op-ed Continue reading

Russia backs Kim

Yesterday Russia joined the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Japan in saying they will back Kim.  They have only 1.7 per cent of the votes at the Bank, but they do have one of the 25 board seats. And they’re the first BRICS country to come out for him.  Perhaps tellingly, their statement didn’t explain why they preferred Kim to his more experienced challenger, Okonjo-Iweala.  I expect this is the route those backing Kim for (misguided) geopolitical considerations will go. Praise Kim, don’t mention the alternative, or how they decided his merits were better than Okonjo-Iweala’s. We shall see soon enough.

It’s all over: Dartmouth has spoken

While Bank-watchers were expecting the final decision to be made next week, we should have paid more attention to more reputable sources.  I’m talking of course of Dartmouth College, the US Ivy League school no one outside of the US had ever heard of until its President was plucked from nowhere to run for the World Bank Presidency. Ok, Ok, I’m being unfair. Probably not that many in the US had heard of it either.

But we should all have paid more attention, as they were the first to officially call the outcome of the race. Yes, their head of media relations (a big job, now at least) tells us: Continue reading

Bank reform – a thoughtful list of key issues

My former colleagues at the Bretton Woods Project have just published their bi-monthly Bretton Woods Update with a cover article summarising some of the key issues that whoever wins the Presidency will have to tackle.  Worth reading in full, but here are some snippets, the first on the rise of emerging markets:

One of the most pressing issues is how to work effectively with large emerging market countries. Continue reading

Over 100 economists endorse Ocampo

The great and the good are weighing into the World Bank President debate – in addition to the senior Bank staffers coming out in support of Okonjo-Iweala, over one hundred well respected economists have come out for Ocampo.  Here’s what they had to say:

We the undersigned economists, endorse the candidacy of Jose Antonio Ocampo for President of the World Bank.  Throughout his career Dr. Ocampo has managed and reformed national ministries of finance, agriculture and planning, and regional and global UN Agencies pertaining to economic development and social affairs.  Furthermore, he is one of the most noted development economists of our time.  It is our view that based his relative merits, Dr. Ocampo is the most suitable candidate for World Bank president.

Signatories (as at 1130 GMT 5th April- more are being added all the time) Continue reading