Closing ranks

It seems to me that unless the developing countries, including the BRICS, close ranks behind one of their two candidates, Ngozi or Ocampo, they will all lose any legitimacy in calling for a merit based selection process with no regard to national origin.  If this does not happen very soon, I don’t see a reason for any of the industrial  nations to take them seriously enough to not vote with the US for Dr. Kim, or pay attention to any of their other demands for that matter.

I wonder if the non-biased observers on this blog have any thoughts on that.

European governments’ opinions – two out of three candidates impressive…

I’ve seen some of the EU governments’ confidential reports of the interviews EU governors had with the three Presidential candidates last week. Of course they all had differing views, but a fair summary would be:

Okonjo-Iweala: passionate performer, good knowledge of how the World Bank operates, but her pitch wasn’t so well set out or structured.

Ocampo: best prepared, clearest ideas about where he would take the Bank, most knowledgeable on economic issues. Quite academic in style.

Kim: Very committed, but limited knowledge outside health, and particularly not on finance and economics.

“how did the United States wind up taking the helm of the World Bank, and not the I.M.F”

In an interesting article, Benn Steil, in the New York Times, traces the history of how a spy scandal led to the unwritten arrangement between the US and European powers to divide the leadership of the IMF and World Bank between them.

He concludes his historical account of how this came about saying “Instead of treating the World Bank presidency as a sacred American birthright, we should remember that it was never more than a consolation prize for an administration trying to dodge a spy scandal.”


Ngozi in the FT: “My vision for a World Bank that serves everyone”

In an Op-Ed article today in the Financial Times, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala says ” My own approach to thinking about development has been influenced by my childhood experiences. I grew up in a village in Nigeria where I knew poverty first-hand. I lived through the Nigerian civil war in my formative years, where I observed how violence could set back years of economic development. My thinking has also been shaped by the past 30 years, working in almost every region of the world on thorny issues of development. It has certainly been informed by four years as finance and foreign minister in one of the most challenging but also exciting countries in the world – Nigeria.


“A better World Bank pick”

The conservative Washington Times Newspaper manages to be tough on both the World Bank and Jim Kim, while endorsing Ngozi, all at the same time. It puts its argument this way;  “The World Bank will be interviewing candidates for its next president in a process meant to be open, transparent and merit-based. President Obama’s nominee, Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College, has the inside track, though developing-country aspirants, such as Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are better qualified. There are also many Americans who would make a better choice.” Adding “In an ideal world, there would be no World Bank. When selecting the institution’s next leader, America – and the world – have a lot more talent to offer than Dr. Kim.”

A question of credibility

Here is a question that keeps on nagging at me; what will be the reputational cost to the World Bank and Mr. Kim himself, once the charade of this selection process is over and he is confirmed as the new President of the World Bank?.
I say once, since it seems quite clear that after all the noise about merit based selection by the G20, the directors on the board of the bank will eventually cast their votes according to their shares.
Now, that there seems to be almost a universal judgment that Mr. Kim is the least qualified of the three candidates for the job, how will his credibility – and hence effectiveness, and that of the bank, fare after he takes over?

“The World Bank presidency should not be an apprenticeship”

Jagdish Bhagwati takes on Obama in an opinion article published by Project Syndicate. He starts his argument saying:

“What .. does Obama’s choice tell us about the sincerity of his feminist rhetoric? Does he draw the line wherever it suits him? In fact, if Obama and his advisers could not stomach Okonjo-Iweala on the ground that she is not American, surely they could have nominated an American woman who was also vastly superior to Kim for the job.” Suggesting that  Laura Tyson, who chaired the President’s Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, or Lael Brainard, who is now Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs would have been a better choice.

He goes on to add  “.. it is the rapid acceleration of economic growth in the major emerging countries that has reduced poverty, not only directly, through jobs and higher incomes, but also by generating the revenues governments need to undertake the public-health, education, and other programs that sustain poverty reduction – and growth – in the long term. India followed this path. So did Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – after the reforms undertaken by his predecessor produced the revenues that could then be spent on programs to aid the poor further.”