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. Stephen Grenville goes further, arguing that “Zoellick seemed to revel in spreading his influence widely.”
Strategic direction is obviously an important attribute for the next Bank head, but Felix Salmon points to the diplomatic and political skills needed to broker compromise across the Bank’s constituencies, which he argues rules out Jeff Sachs.
“Sachs, by contrast, is angry; life’s natural campaigners. That’s great when you’re hanging out with Bono, or even Bill Gates. But it’s less likely to get you very far when you’re trying to persuade the Nigerian president to revolutionize his domestic policy.”
Stephen Foley of the Independent hinted where Sachs may really be aiming – the Bank’s chief economist position, currently held by Justin Lin.
A dose of humility would also serve one of the world’s most self-confident (some may say arrogant) institutions well. Two putative candidates displayed different versions of this attribute. Bangladeshi microfinancier Muhammad Yunus ruled himself out, despite having the backing of his government and the respect of at least one US official. “I have been a regular critic of the World Bank for its policies and programs,” he said in a statement. He also revealed that he had been sounded out for the job in 1995 by Bill Clinton – that the assumption that the US will always back one fo their own may not be as rock solid as often assumed. Meanwhile Indian minister Jairam Ramesh – also on the bookmakers’ lists of possible long-shot candidates – when asked if he was interested, said instead that “there was no one better” than Indian planning commission deputy chair Montek Singh Ahluwalia.
But can anyone really argue that really understanding the particular problems of developing countries is the most important attribute, and that it’s kinda hard to get it if you haven’t spent much of your career working in – or for – one of those countries? Not something that appears too frequently on the CVs of many of the candidates currently being discussed at the White House…