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

World Bank presidency can’t be a done deal

As the global financial crisis threatens to undo years of progress in poor countries, the World Bank has raised its lending to unprecedented levels – $57 billion in 2011, more than double what it committed in 2008. With the cash, comes sway over developing countries’ policies, poverty programs, and governance systems.

The Bank only operates in developing countries, and it is people in these countries who must live day-to-day with its policies and programs. The Bank surely has an interest, then, in shoring up its legitimacy and credibility in its dealing with these clients. And indeed, the Bank holds itself up as a model of accountability, transparency and good governance.

Yet the very starting point of the Bank’s own governance, its leadership, is a stitch-up. 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

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

Sachs’ candidacy sets stage for public debate over Bank reform

CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot  yesterday issued a statement supporting  Jeffrey Sachs’ reform candidacy for the World Bank. Reform is the operative word here. It is the nature of Sachs’ candidacy – the changes he proposes for what the World Bank does, coupled with his undeniable credentials – that makes his candidacy “unprecedented” and important.

Sachs’ candidacy sets the stage for a public debate over the issues that World Bank reform advocates consider most important, 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

Whispers in Washington: US to ensure its candidate will be president

As the White House keeps it lips seeled on who its candidate might be, and pointedly makes no public commitment on the status of the ‘gentlemans agreement’, we’re often left to contemplate the snatches of gossip, conjecture and rumour that trickle forth from DC. Alan Beattie, international economics editor at the Financial Times, is an old Washington-hand, and a well connected fellow. If anyone knows which whispers in Washington are the right ones to listen to, it’s probably him. And his recent article for the FT may be a little deflating for those hoping that this time things will be different. The clue is in the rather unequivocal title, ‘US to keep grip on helm of World Bank’. Continue reading