Discordant NGOs on second favourite Sachs

While some have remarked about the consistency of civil society organisation input on the process, no one can claim that NGOs present a unanimous voice. To spice things up a bit John Cavanagh and Robin Broad wrote about “Why We Are Not Supporting Jeffrey Sachs to be World Bank President” emphasising how his “approach to development remains top-down and formulaic.” Some choice arguments:

This is a moment when we should be actively seeking a candidate from the South—someone who has walked the walk to embrace a bottom-up approach to development. Many names come to mind, including the South Centre’s Martin Khor and Charles Abugre of the UN Millennium Campaign. The so-called gentlemen’s agreement that allows the US government to select an American to head the bank was wrong in the 1940s; it is even more illegitimate now. …

Today, Sachs’s approach to development remains, at its core, top-down and formulaic. Elsewhere, we have critiqued Sachs’s book The End of Poverty for overemphasizing the power of trade and new technologies to put the poorest on a ladder to modernization. (He once famously said, “My concern is not that there are too many sweatshops but that there are too few.”)

Sachs has applied this approach in his well-publicized Millennium Villages in Africa. African colleagues have relayed criticisms that mesh with our own. Through these villages, Sachs has been a promoter of outside money to pay for (among other things) chemical-dependent “green revolution” farming. One village alone is reported to have had a $50,000 a year fertilizer bill. While this undoubtedly can lead to an initial boost in agricultural yields, it is hardly sustainable in the longer run economically (yields dwindle as soils get compacted from chemical inputs), socially (farmers drown in debts), or environmentally (fossil fuel-based chemical fertilizers contribute to climate change).

Sachs was given the right to reply in The Nation, asking “Who else but me among the widely rumored candidates has a record of standing for the poorest of the poor?” he both robustly defends his own track record and resorts to arguing that he is the best of a bad lot. It seems a bit like Republican support for Mitt Romney from a dreadful field of primary candidates for the US presidency, with Sachs writing:

The other US candidates for the position are certainly not development leaders and have no track records fighting poverty. Some have track records quite to the contrary. President Obama, as far as we know, is not considering Martin Khor, but he is considering Larry Summers.

However there is no doubt that Sachs’ candidacy has shaken up the race. Just ask our friends over at Paddy Power. Sachs has jumped to be the second favourite in the race with odds of 3/1. He remains, however, behind Larry Summers, the favourite on 4/11. The other candidate name circulating in the US press, PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi, doesn’t even get a look-in from Paddy Power.