Talking about the future of the Bank

The latest Washington Post report on the heating up campaign talks about competition for the job.  It does not say that an American won’t be chosen.  It speaks to some World Bank executive directors wanting to make the selection “competitive”. This is not a bad thing because it will legitimize the selection of the American who is put forward.

But in the continuing obsession with the process Continue reading

World Bank? You’d better look at the BRICS bank!

Ok, I know that most of you are interested in the changes about to occur in the World Bank but, am sorry to say, this generates very little interest in some of the largest countries of the so called “developing” world.

First, because we all know that the US will nominee the guy to the WB, just as Europe have always done with the IMF. Although some Southern governments, just like Brazil´s, pretend to believe in “reforms” in the Bretton Woods institutions, deep inside they know that winners are already chosen. Continue reading

Will the next World Bank president have ‘official views’?

Amidst all the talk of Jeffrey Sachs’s ‘pick me!’ campaign, Larry Summer’s numerous indiscretions, and the dimming prospect of a BRIC candidate, development consultant Ben Ramalingam offers something a little different. Drawing on work by former Bank staffer and academic David Ellerman he argues that a problem with the Bank is that it has ‘official views’. These views, which the Bank pours energy and resources into coming up with, constitute the Bank’s official line on issues, and become orthodoxies that inhibit genuine learning, country and community ownership, and open dialogue:

adverse opinions and critical reasoning tend to give way to authority, rules and bureaucratic reasoning shaped by the hierarchies within the organisation. Moreover, these Official Views “short-circuit” and bypass the active learning capability of national and local actors, and substitute the authority of external agencies in its place Continue reading

Criteria for choosing Zoellick’s successor

After former World Bank Executive Director Moises Naim weighed in with ‘critical tips’, thoughtful commentary in the FT by former World Bank Vice Presidents, academics Ian Goldin and Danny Leipziger, and a robust rejoinder to Goldin from former World Bank staff member Percy Mistry highlight the issues the world should expect the World Bank’s owners and board to take into account as they prepare a shortlist of three, interview candidates, and select “by consensus” Robert Zoellick’s successor.

Taken together, these contributions enrich the rather bland criteria set out by the board in its announcement of what it will take into account.

What these four notes address is the Bank’s relevance in the modern world. All four hint, or say quite broadly, that there’s a problem, and that ‘something needs to be done’. Continue reading

A BASIC South view: Expectations from a new president of the World Bank

The “BASIC” block of countries, including China, India, Brazil and South-Africa, representing a group of emerging economies have become a strong geopolitical force in global governance. This “political power shift” became apparent during the Copenhagen Climate Conference and has been observed as well in the vote reform within the Bretton Woods Institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF1. While the US and Europe continue to have a strong and powerful voice within the International Finance Institutions (IFIs) and UN bodies, the BASIC countries are increasingly using their political and economic clout and influence, especially through informal alliances around UNFCCC negotiations, Major Economies Forum (MEF) and shaping of Green Climate Fund.

The world is entering a new period in global politics, where restructuring of global institutions and redesigning of political processes are taking place to incorporate the interests of emerging economies. Even the World Bank has to navigate through this new emerging dynamic, especially on issues like energy strategy, environmental and social safeguards, etc. Continue reading

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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Candidate gossip spreads, real issues begin to rear their heads…

The self-nomination of Jeff Sachs into the ‘race’ has certainly livened things up. David Bosco reports that Bank staff don’t think much of Sachs – which may be a good or a bad thing depending on your opinion of Bank staff. Sachs has shown he has some political nous by highlighting one central weakness of the Bank under Zoellick – the desire to prioritise everything.  It always looked suspiciously more like empire building than strategic direction. Continue reading

Good Advice from Center for Global Development’s Nancy Birdsall

In a CGD “wonkcast”, Nancy Birdsall sets out some excellent criteria for the next World Bank president.

Ability to “corral” the World Bank’s resident, 25-person board onto a new agenda, including perhaps letting loose their grip on how the Bank runs, day-to-day, will be key.  This will involve personal and persuasive skills that the Bank has not seen much in evidence since Jim Wolfensohn’s departure nearly seven years ago.  Admittedly, Wolfensohn had a rocky start, and a stormy relationship with the Executive Directors at times, but once he realized that “what’s good for the Bank is good for Jim Wolfensohn, and vice versa” he moved the Bank to a new level of respect and effectiveness, with a Board that was fully behind him. Continue reading

Wasting time talking about people

There has been endless speculation in the media, fueled by CSO activism bordering on fantasy and hissy-fits, about names rumored and leaked to be in the running to replace Robert Zoellick on July 1.

Now is the time to tell the owners of the Bank, who will nominate candidates, and the Board, who will choose from among the three they shortlist, what profile the next World Bank president should have, beyond the generic criteria that the Development Committee endorsed. Continue reading

BRIC leadership and the environment: a dilemma?

An interesting recent article by Environment and Energy Publishing outlines a dilemma for environmentalists advocating for change at the World Bank. Green groups have long-called for a more democratic institution that genuinely addresses both poverty and environmental destruction in developing countries, and have often been prominent in arguing against the archaic convention that sees the US president appoint the Bank’s leader. But, on the other hand many environmentalists acknowledge that any potential candidate from the BRICs may put less of an emphasis on environmental issues than the US. Continue reading