Voting arithmetic examined

With all the excited talk about the candidates and their interviews, lets get down to brass tacks – the World Bank Board is going to hold a straw poll today to check into where countries are. While a formal decision is expected to be taken and announced Monday this straw poll is important to see if the developing countries can coalesce around one candidate and make the Europeans think again about the gentleman’s agreement (read: sordid back room deal with the Americans). Who has the numbers?

It is all a bit complicated because the Bank is in the middle of their capital increase, which has not fully gone through all capitals yet. Meaning the voting rights at the board are neither the pre-2010 agreement levels, nor the final 2010 agreement levels. The Bank corporate secretary helpfully published a new table of voting rights by executive director yesterday.

Here’s the arithmetic as far as we know or can guess.

  • US, Canada, Japan for Kim. Lets add Spain/Mexico in that column since the Mexicans declared their preference. And lets Add New Zealand/Australia/South Korea as well since the Korean president has backed Kim.
  • Latin Americans for Ocampo – Brazil nominated him, the Argentinians wouldn’t dream of supporting one of the others at this point.
  • Three African constituencies for Okonjo-Iweala given the African Union support.
Kim 36.7% Okonjo-Iweala 4.9%
Ocampo 5.7% unknown 52.7%

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Wednesday crunch time – candidates to meet EU Governors

One of the most important days for the selection process may turn out to be Wednesday 4 April. We have learned that “the Danish EU-Presidency intends to provide an opportunity to the EU World Bank Governors to have an exchange with all the three candidates for the position of the World Bank Group President. … It will now be held on Wednesday, April 4 2012, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Brussels.

So the finance/development/foreign minsters from the EU 27 Continue reading

Sizing up the candidates

Now that we know the three candidates, a lot of ink will be spilled weighing them up against each other. I asked an expert with more than 30 years of experience on the field of development  finance to give an opinion. This expert – who has experience in the public, private and third sector – asked to remain anonymous because over the years the person had worked with several of the candidates (and expects to work with them all in the future). The assessment:

“We have 3 candidates. There seems to be a growing consensus that the winner needs to (a) be from a developing country rather than a US candidate; (b) be anti the Washington consensus agenda (privatisation and liberalisation) and pro-equitable and bottom up development; and (c) have experience of managing a large organisation.

So how do the candidates measure up to these criteria ?

Okonjo-Iweala: Continue reading

The World Bank needs reform: democracy, accountability, climate change, and more

We closed the poll on which issues at the Bank need the most reform. You can see it at the bottom of the page. Its worth noting that there was a fairly even spread of issues that people thought needed reform. But the top issues were: democracy and accountability at the Bank; the Bank’s involvement in climate finance; improvement of public health systems; duty to respect and protect human rights; and the development impact of extractive industries. Lets review some of these, with some conjecture on the candidate’s positions:

First democracy and accountability – the first half of which is not strictly in the power of the Bank President. That said, the President can use his bully pulpit to argue for and demand changes in the alignment of power among shareholders. For all his many faults, this is something Strauss-Kahn did during his tenure at the IMF. While Zoellick’s parting words tried to put the multilateral into the Bank, he did precious little during his term to up the democracy quotient. The second half of that reform demand – accountability – is another matter. The president could set down the law about making sure there is greater participation by affected communities in Bank projects, and could also strengthen the independent accountability mechanisms at the Bank. By a rough read, this is not something that seems to be in the experience of US-nominee Jim Yong Kim, while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a Bank insider for decades is not seen as friendly to this agenda, while Jose Antonio Ocampo, as someone with a strong UN background, presumably takes inclusiveness more seriously. Continue reading

Discordant NGOs on second favourite Sachs

While some have remarked about the consistency of civil society organisation input on the process, no one can claim that NGOs present a unanimous voice. To spice things up a bit John Cavanagh and Robin Broad wrote about “Why We Are Not Supporting Jeffrey Sachs to be World Bank President” emphasising how his “approach to development remains top-down and formulaic.” Some choice arguments:

This is a moment when we should be actively seeking a candidate from the South—someone who has walked the walk to embrace a bottom-up approach to development. Many names come to mind, including the South Centre’s Martin Khor and Charles Abugre of the UN Millennium Campaign. The so-called gentlemen’s agreement that allows the US government to select an American to head the bank was wrong in the 1940s; it is even more illegitimate now. …

Today, Sachs’s approach to development remains, at its core, top-down and formulaic. Elsewhere, we have critiqued Sachs’s book The End of Poverty for overemphasizing the power of trade and new technologies to put the poorest on a ladder to modernization. (He once famously said, “My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops but that there are too few.”)

Sachs has applied this approach in his well-publicized Millennium Villages in Africa. African colleagues have relayed criticisms that mesh with our own. Through these villages, Sachs has been a promoter of outside money to pay for (among other things) chemical-dependent “green revolution” farming. One village alone is reported to have had a $50,000 a year fertilizer bill. While this undoubtedly can lead to an initial boost in agricultural yields, it is hardly sustainable in the longer run economically (yields dwindle as soils get compacted from chemical inputs), socially (farmers drown in debts), or environmentally (fossil fuel-based chemical fertilizers contribute to climate change).

Sachs was given the right to reply in The Nation, asking “Who else but me among the widely rumored candidates has a record of standing for the poorest of the poor?” he both robustly defends his own track record and resorts to arguing that he is the best of a bad lot. It seems a bit like Republican support for Mitt Romney from a dreadful field of primary candidates for the US presidency, with Sachs writing:

The other US candidates for the position are certainly not development leaders and have no track records fighting poverty. Some have track records quite to the contrary. President Obama, as far as we know, is not considering Martin Khor, but he is considering Larry Summers.

However there is no doubt that Sachs’ candidacy has shaken up the race. Just ask our friends over at Paddy Power. Sachs has jumped to be the second favourite in the race with odds of 3/1. He remains, however, behind Larry Summers, the favourite on 4/11. The other candidate name circulating in the US press, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, doesn’t even get a look-in from Paddy Power.

Poll: Priorities for reform at the World Bank

The World Bank has attracted criticism across the spectrum of its operations. In this poll, we highlight a selection of the concerns campaigning groups have highlighted. Which area(s) do you feel are the ripest for reform by a new World Bank president?  This is not intended to be a comprehensive agenda – suggest other important issues in the comment section at the bottom!

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Journalist’s crib sheet: How to cover World Bank elections

The crib sheet on “how to cover African elections” [h/t Duncan Green] made it almost too easy… Freelance journalist Jina Moore complains about the typical Western media coverage of disputed elections in Africa. She says a certain stereotype of rigged elections is portrayed, while the media ignore the very free and fair elections happening elsewhere on the continent.

But the text was so easily adaptable to the World Bank! With a few tweaks (underlines are merely filling in Jina’s crib sheet, tweaks are in red), I just had to give it a go:

“These days, nowhere are crises selection processes more predictable than in the World Bank (poor/recently violent country). And yet, when they unfold as anticipated, Western policymakers and diplomats always seem caught off guard — raising questions about the competence, willingness, and commitment of the Washington-based representatives diplomatic corps and the United Nations mission to discharge their responsibilities and meet their promises for a process that is truly fair.”

“….Nothing underscores the apathy and inconsistency hypocrisy that characterize Western diplomacy in the World Bank more than the current impasse… Continue reading

Jeff Sachs lobbies for the Bank presidency

Global unemployment being at 200 million according to the ILO, there a lot of people writing cover letters and polishing up their CVs. Jeff Sachs, celebrity economist and aid proponent, has joined the group of job seekers, though in a tougher political environment than most. He probably didn’t help his cause by almost contradicting himself within a week, and his CV might need a lot of polishing.

Sach’s cover letter for the job appeared in the Washington Post this morning. As any good cover letter, it sings the praise of the candidate:

My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, not with a corporate balance sheet or a government. Yet the solutions work for all — the poor, companies, governments and the rest of us — by creating a more prosperous, healthy and secure world. … Continue reading

Campaigners launch action against Larry Summers nomination

A campaign group in the US has launched an online petition demanding that President Obama NOT nominate Larry Summers. The campaign group is called UltraViolet and it “fight[s] to expand women’s rights and combat sexism everywhere – from politics and government to media and pop culture.” Here is what their action says: Continue reading

What are the odds? And where are the Chinese?

We’ve been waiting with bated breath for the odds makers to get active. After all, free-market thinkers tell us that the market always has the best outcomes and sets the right prices. So surely speculation on this blog, and elsewhere in the media, will be wrong and the market will be right. Finally, yesterday, Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaker (betting site), answered the call. Of course they weren’t the only ones; John Cassidy of the New Yorker made up his own odds last weekend. But Paddy Power, with odds set by the frequency of bets, should give us the pulse of the market. Will they be right?

A review of the odds as of 21 Feb:

Larry Summers  4/11
Susan Rice  9/2
Hillary Clinton  9/2
Kemal Dervis  9/1
Tim Geithner  9/1
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala  20/1
Trevor Manuel  20/1
Lula da Silva  20/1
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