The curtain comes down, but the (same old) show goes on … and on

This morning we had official confirmation from the Bank that Jim Kim will not face any competitors in his bid for his tenure at the Bank to be renewed. With absolutely no intention to reduce this coronation to a farce-like procession, the Bank has indicated they will strictly adhere to the appropriate procedures.

These 2011 procedures are worth quoting:

In response to the DC Communiqués calling for “open, merit-based and transparent selection of the World Bank President,” the Executive Directors have approved a process for selecting the World Bank President as an important part of the governance and accountability reforms.

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim in Lima, Peru on June 29, 2013. Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

Well, so much for that.

Kim will shortly be interviewed by the board and should that process determine that he is the best candidate in a field of one expect an October announcement confirming Kim’s re-appointment at the forthcoming annual meetings.

Tick-Tock

Tick-tock, tick-tock – that is the sound of time slipping away from the World Bank’s efforts to hold on to whatever remains of its legitimacy as a global development leader that lives by and values its own rhetoric about democratic governance, meritocracy and transparency.

As the minutes of 14 September 2016 slip inexorably away, so does the likelihood that any of the Bank’s shareholders will dare put forth a candidate to compete with the US’ anointed heir to the throne, as today is the deadline for nominations.

Perhaps one should not complain.  Surely a three week nomination period beginning at the height of the summer holiday season is evidently plenty of time for careful and considered discussion and nomination process for the leader of ‘the world’s pre-eminent’ development institution.  It is clear, after all, that the US found plenty of time to carefully consider the various options and to make the necessary calls. Who could possibly disagree – we mean, of those who count, excluding those pesky critics from misguided NGOs or spoiled staff crying over their lattes?

Well, it seems the realm of the misguided and naïve has been expanding significantly, if the letter by former World Bank officials published in the Financial Times is any indication of current trends. Interestingly, the letter was penned by former World Bank officials who would seem protected from charges of ‘the usual and predicable’ staff discontent with difficult re-structuring and lost perks.

As it is unlikely that we will have any last minute nominations to challenge Kim’s coronation and the perpetuation of the US’ monopoly on the presidency of the Bank, it will be quite interesting to see how the Bank will address the concerns raised about the clearly inadequate process by civil society and present and former Bank staff. We will wait with anticipation for what we can only assume will be a very clever and creative justification by the Bank of the clearly inadequate and absurd process.

In the meantime, spare a thought for Bank staff tasked with engaging with borrowers on the merits of good governance, participatory development, transparency and meritocracy….

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.

The more things change… We’re back

It is true that Kim’s term does not expire for nearly another year, so what compelled the return of everyone’s favourite blog covering the latest developments on the coronation, er… we mean nomination of the next World Bank president just now?

The impetus for the revival of the blog was the World Bank Board’s announcement last week that it had opened a three-week nomination process for its new president. The nomination process closes on 14 September and the Board has pledged to take a decision within weeks of that date. The US administration nominated Dr. Kim for a second term within the first few hours of the opening of the process in a move that the NY Times noted was “intended to discourage would-be rivals”.

The Board has thus ignored long-standing calls from global civil society, and also recently from the Bank’s staff association, for a transparent, merit based selection process for the selection of the next World Bank president. The Financial Times reported in early August that the Bank’s staff association had sent a letter to the Board stating “We preach principles of good governance, transparency, diversity, international competition, and merit-based selection. Unfortunately, none of these principles have applied to the appointment of past World Bank Group Presidents … Instead, we have accepted decades of backroom deals which, twelve times in a row, selected an American male. This must change.” 

To be honest, when the blog went into hibernation in 2012, we had hoped that during the next selection process for World Bank president, the blog would be used by contributors to debate the relative merits of various well-qualified candidates proposed by a number of the Bank’s members. We had, perhaps foolishly, hoped assurances of a new merit-based process that finally did away with the perpetual American monopoly on the post would have been in place.  We had hoped this forum could contribute to a debate about the qualifications of a suitable list of candidates, including various contenders from the Global South, that would be evaluated against well defined parameters through a transparent process. The blog would therefore make an important contribution to  a  selection process based solely on the merits of the various contenders, versus, by way of random example, the person’s nationality…

Alas, as it is said, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’… So, here we go again… At the closing of the blog in 2012 we noted that “the final word goes to the G24 group of developing countries at the World Bank.  This is from the communiqué they issued …

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.

It seems a very opportune time, given what we know about the proposed process for the selection of the next World Bank president, to consider how well it meets the requirement outlined above.

Let the discussions begin…

We look forward to a repeat of the lively discussions and exchanges that took place during the previous selection processes and invite you to contribute by writting posts or comments and to share any information that you think relevant.

Jim Yong Kim’s statement after his appointment

From Lima, Jim Kim has been gracious and forward-looking in his official statement after his appointment was announced.

Let’s hope that the owners and the World Bank’s board will not again waste five years trying to forget what they did wrong this time in the appointment process, so that progressive voices will not have to again sit out a fulsome and reasoned discussion of the candidates’ merits.

But let’s not spend the next two years whining about this process.  Even a flawed process can have a good outcome.

Who is responsible?

If, as expected, Dr. Kim is announced tomorrow as the new President of the World Bank, who do you suppose should be held responsible by the public, and history, for what promises to be an ineffective and tarnished presidency?

Is it the fault of Obama, who now seems to stand for ” a change no one should believe in”, the BRICS that turned out to be as soft as egg shells, or the board of executive directors which abandoned their responsibilities , according to the bylaws of the organization, and proved that they are simply little more than chess pieces for their Capitals?

If the process is now completely tarnished, who should be held responsible? 


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