Calls for developing country candidates growing stronger

With over 2,200 votes on the worldbankpresident.org poll within less than a week of its launch, the demand for developing world candidates has perhaps never been stronger.

Devesh Kapur, who co-authored the official history of the World Bank, calls the nomination process “dreadfully antiquated” in an article for the New Europe Post Online, arguing that the Bank in reality has little choice but to look to the growing emerging-market economies, rather than the indebted West, for resources. But they would then “rightly demand a greater voice in running the Bank”. Kapur lists Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, Ernest Zedillo of Mexico and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, to name a few, as favoured developing country candidates. But he also doesn’t rule out Hilary Clinton as a credible candidate.

The New Yorker agrees, and puts Hillary Clinton as a runner up to Timothy Geithner, but also adds Lula at number five together with Tony Blair. Lula’s case has been further promoted by Gregory Chin of York University, Canada, due to Brazil’s rising power and since in his view Lula is both globally respected and weathered the global financial storms more successfully than most advanced economies during his reign. Furthermore, Chin writes, Lula has called for a greater voice for developing countries in global decision making and agenda setting, calling him a “credible champion of the developing economies.”

This is a title that few of the other of the New Yorker’s ‘top’ candidates can put on their CV.  While the World Bank criteria for candidates don’t mention developing country experience,  it does ask for candidates with: “the ability to articulate a clear vision of the World Bank Group’s development mission”. Surely without a clear understanding and experience of what challenges developing countries face and in what context, it would be difficult to adequately fulfil this criterion?

It is therefore not surprising that the calls for developing country candidates are growing stronger. An editorial in India’s Economic Times refers to the Bank’s mandate to only operate in developing countries, stating that “The world has lived too long with the US diktat that the Bank can select any president as long as he is American!” Furthermore, an FT editorial regrets the “decades old stitch-up between the US and Europe” and calls for a new approach addressing “the growing complaints from the World Bank’s increasingly vociferous developing country shareholders, who resent the continued dominance over governance by western powers.”

Barbara Stocking of development charity Oxfam GB is equally disappointed by this “stitch-up”, calling it an “imperial set-up” in an FT Comment piece. She adds “It seems incredible then that the World Bank’s clients – the countries who have to live with its policies and programmes – have no say in who leads this institution.” “A candidate from a poor country or emerging market would be a welcome change.”

The time line for nomination is tight. While the World Bank Governors and Executive Directors make up their mind on who to put forward, vote for your favourite developing country candidate at the worldbankpresident.org poll – and let’s see if the Bank follows suit.

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