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.

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

Russia backs Kim

Yesterday Russia joined the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Japan in saying they will back Kim.  They have only 1.7 per cent of the votes at the Bank, but they do have one of the 25 board seats. And they’re the first BRICS country to come out for him.  Perhaps tellingly, their statement didn’t explain why they preferred Kim to his more experienced challenger, Okonjo-Iweala.  I expect this is the route those backing Kim for (misguided) geopolitical considerations will go. Praise Kim, don’t mention the alternative, or how they decided his merits were better than Okonjo-Iweala’s. We shall see soon enough.

It’s all over: Dartmouth has spoken

While Bank-watchers were expecting the final decision to be made next week, we should have paid more attention to more reputable sources.  I’m talking of course of Dartmouth College, the US Ivy League school no one outside of the US had ever heard of until its President was plucked from nowhere to run for the World Bank Presidency. Ok, Ok, I’m being unfair. Probably not that many in the US had heard of it either.

But we should all have paid more attention, as they were the first to officially call the outcome of the race. Yes, their head of media relations (a big job, now at least) tells us: Continue reading

Ocampo and Iweala hit campaign trail: but where the hell is Kim?

Has anyone heard a peep out of Jim Yong Kim?  He wants to be President of the world’s most influential development institution, yet – as far as I can tell – he hasn’t given a single interview to any press outlet anywhere.

Meanwhile his two more experienced rivals are already all over the airwaves, often attacking Kim. Ocampo was on Bloomberg and had this to say to AFP:

“He is a very competent doctor, but if we speak strictly about development experience, the Nigerian minister and I amply surpass him.”

Iweala gave the Washington Postperhaps the most barbed quote of the week on Kim Continue reading

A transparent, merit-based process: key steps

Now there’s a choice of candidates, for the first time it’s possible to say we may have the basis for a merit-based process for the selection of the World Bank President. Whether that’s what we get is, however, far less likely. If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
  4. 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?

Nomination day – 2, 3 or 4 way race?

Nominations close at 6pm Washington time today – that’s 10pm GMT.  Two candidates appear definite.

Columbia University’s Jeff Sachs says he’s in, nominated by a collection of developing countries.  Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will face him, nominated by the South African consituency, which includes her home country and Angola.  Slightly unbelievably, the US is yet to make up its mind which of an unimpressive list of second tier candidates it wants to choose.

But what of former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo? Continue reading

Southern countries step up for the fight: Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo to be nominated….

… according to a Reuters report:

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are set to be nominated to lead the World Bank, sources with knowledge of emerging market efforts to find candidates said on Tuesday.

It goes on: Continue reading