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. …

I’ll stand on my record of helping to create those networks: to launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; to bring new support for the world’s poorest farmers so they can boost yields, production and income; to scale up the role of community health workers; to translate debt relief into poverty reduction; to link the poorest countries to global markets in support of exports for growth; to make mobile technologies the new edge of development practice; and to link climate science with solutions.

My role has been to help bring together vastly diverse communities of knowledge, power, and influence to see what can work in practice and then to help make it happen.

I am ready to lead the bank into a new era of problem-solving.

Sachs is the first openly declared candidate, though he has not had the nomination of any government as of yet. But his campaign might be off to a rocky start. In his regular monthly column for Project Syndicate, published on the 24th of February, this American economist implied the job shouldn’t go to an American:

From the Bank’s establishment until today, the unwritten rule has been that the US government simply designates each new president: all 11 have been Americans, and not a single one has been an expert in economic development, the Bank’s core responsibility, or had a career in fighting poverty or promoting environmental sustainability. Instead, the US has selected Wall Street bankers and politicians, presumably to ensure that the Bank’s policies are suitably friendly to US commercial and political interests.

Yet the policy is backfiring on the US and badly hurting the world. Because of a long-standing lack of strategic expertise at the top, the Bank has lacked a clear direction. Many projects have catered to US corporate interests rather than to sustainable development.

Of course, Sach’s earlier column leaves him an escape route. In the final detail, he argues that the job shouldn’t go to someone “from Wall Street or from US politics”. That leaves him above the fray, ready to work with all countries and all interests.  Sachs, in his cover letter, highlights some of his experience: including travelling to “more than 125 countries, from mega-city capitals to mountaintop villages, from rain forest settlements to nomadic desert camps” and “understanding the realities of flooded villages, drought-ridden farms, desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children, and teenage girls unable to pay high school tuition.”

Left out of his CV are some of the most controversial years of his experience – 1985 to 1993 when he served as an economic advisor, first in Latin America, and then in the former Soviet bloc, including in Poland, Russia, Estonia and Slovenia. The “shock therapy” he designed for those economies – massive liberalisation and privatisation – has been controversial. In the case of the Soviet bloc countries it  has been argued that it contributed to them plunging into recession, seeing increased unemployment, and in the most spectacular case of Russia, led to the rise of the first wave of Russian oligarchs who profited handsomely off the fire sale of state assets.

We all make mistakes… Has he learned from them? Should Sachs be interviewed for the job in the end, let’s hope his interview panel asks that interesting question about failures that the candidate has learned from, and that Sachs can give the easy answer.

Many civil society organisations would no doubt be pleased to see Sachs as the US nominee, his having been instrumental in calls for greater aid, more debt relief, and a focus on spending on social services like health and education. His friendship with Bono might bring some glamour as well. Can he convince Lael Brainard and President Obama to tip him for the job?

 

7 thoughts on “Jeff Sachs lobbies for the Bank presidency

  1. Don’t just read his article, read the comments. So far, very few support his candidacy, and the scathing sarcasm is hilarious. Though of course, not as hilarious as your “poll” in which Sri Mulyani came on top. Remind you of the “new Seven Wonders of the World” poll on the Internet (In which many votes were received for the Statue of Liberty)??

  2. Jeff Sachs will not be the US nominee, despite the audacity of putting his application to the op-ed page of the Washington Post. Civil society lobbyists would no doubt criticize his work in Poland, shock structural adjustment that, inconveniently, worked. His approach to development economics has its fans, and its critics, including ex-World Banker Bill Easterly, and most of the impact evaluation scholar-practitioners.

    Sachs correctly points out that the Bank needs to combine its mobilizing and convening power more selectively: “…the World Bank is adrift. It is spread too thin. It has taken on too many fads. It is too disconnected from critical areas of science and knowledge. Without incisive leadership, the bank has often seemed like just a bank.”

    Having a leader who is controversial can work. Robert McNamara achieved greatness, for the time he led it. After a rocky start, so did James Wolfensohn. What they delivered was more focus on health and education, and global debt relief. Both delivered on support for poverty reduction.

    Jeff Sachs has been an articulate advocate for development, but what has he delivered with his charisma?

    While his self-nomination has development professionals across Washington buzzing this morning, Sachs’s contribution is not in putting himself forward for a job he won’t get, but in advocating for focus, leadership, and direction at the Bank.

    This is a plea that the nominating governments, and their agents on the Bank’s board would do well to take seriously if they take the World Bank seriously. The American banker, politician or bureaucrat they select to rebuild starting July 1 has to deliver on that.

  3. Pingback: From Poverty to Power by Duncan Green » Blog Archive » Dodgy elections; new blogs; big oil backlash; India’s healthcare reforms; banning traditional midwives; paying for biodiversity; land rights graphics: links I liked

  4. Yeah, I think that the long appeared narrative is being an expression of impression and self reflections also mixed up with some proverbial words and bowed his head to serve better of the poor world. He has been partly as economic medical doctor to cure and fight against all named deases and risks ahead.

    In a very fundamental sense, he has long tagged with most poor countries and laid along with all of them. Hoped he could be a cool bridge to laise amongst the poor and rich as well as poor agriculture economic versus hight tech based artificial economy of development.

  5. Although Jeff Sachs contradicted himself by writing that the World Bank presidency should go to a non-American and then lobbying for the position himself, I believe that he’s right about the need for a president “who is ready to tackle the great challenges of sustainable development from day one.” Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and a former senior VP of the World Bank, writes her own op-ed for Project Syndicate, sharing similar concerns but also writing:

    “Today, the international community should look for a World Bank president who is attuned to ordinary people’s growing refusal to tolerate glaring global inequalities, and who understands that development is more than GDP growth. Such a leader, regardless of his or her country of origin, will reinvent the World Bank for the century ahead.”

    I’m more inclined to agree with Palacio’s statement. I don’t think that nationality matters, as long as he or she is able to bring the change the world needs. Based on the responses to Sachs’ self-nomination, it doesn’t seem likely that he will become the Bank’s next president but it will be interesting to see who else steps up to the plate. If you’re interested to read more from Palacio, here’s the link: http://beta.project-syndicate.org/commentary/reinventing-the-world-bank

  6. Sachs has made very big claims for his heavy-aid approach to development, and I’d love them to be true, but I don’t think they’re fully verified yet. The Millennium Villages were supposed to graduate from aid in five years; no sign of that happening yet. So I’ve grown a lot more sceptical about the Sachs approach over the years.

  7. Hi
    >
    >I’m standing as Mayor in Ramsgate with a manifesto of:
    >
    >1. Merge IMF and World Bank
    >2. Create UN Parliament with reformed World Bank as Finance Dept and UNMDG
    >budget-holder
    >3. FOI of UN
    >4. UNMDG 2
    >5. Cancel Third World debt
    >6. Ban arms exports
    >7. Free pharmaceuticals for UNMDG infectious diseases
    >8. Ban tax havens
    >9. Cap interest rates at 10% and establish minimum living wage and salary cap
    >10. UN currency and regional ratings agencies
    >11. Right to free clean water and desalination plants, renewable electricity,
    >mobile and internet
    >12. Establish Desertec
    >
    >Is Jeffrey Sachs raising any of these points or producing a manifesto?
    >
    >Kindest regards
    >
    >Tim

    >Tim Garbutt MP and Mayor Campaign: http://www.lovekentloveramsgate,blogspot.com
    >time for change in Kent

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