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

Sachs, Ocampo, and Okonjo-Iweala, 2 out of the 3 need to withdraw

In order to give someone from the developing world a real chance to get the top position at the World Bank, two out of the above mentioned three nominees need to withdraw and throw their weight behind the 3rd candidate. That was the opinion of a group of staffers at the World Bank’s headquarters today gathering for lunch. The rational beyond this is obvious of course. The developing countries must unite behind one candidate if they have a chance to make history and break the strangle hold of Europe and the US on the leadership positions in the World Bank and IMF. The only two international institutions that don’t have open competition for the top jobs.
My question is, who are the two that should withdraw?


The Process is Forever Changed, for the Better

In the wake of Jeffrey Sachs’ unprecedented open candidacy for World Bank president comes important news that developing country economists may also join the race: former minister of finance for Colombia and former senior UN official José Antonio Ocampo, and Nigerian finance minister and former high level World Bank official Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. (Okonjo-Iweala is denying she will seek the position.) If this happens, in a similarly public way, as it appears it will, this will be a huge and irreversible step forward for World Bank governance reform. It would be a leap closer towards what the World Bank’s members have officially adopted as their preference for choosing the Bank’s leader: an open, merit-based process. A contest, of sorts, between Ocampo and Sachs (and perhaps Okonjo-Iweala) – presumably with developing country support behind them – would be a sea change from the Bank’s past practice of putting the U.S.’ (and the Global North’s) interests first in selecting presidents, with developing countries excluded. The succession this time is far different than in 2005, for example, when the Bush administration simply declared that Paul Wolfowitz would helm the Bank, to howls of protest but no known alternative nominees.

Continue reading

Susan Rice candidacy in trouble

Between the idle speculation about various “dream” non-candidates (Lula, Sri Mulyani, Bachelet, Ngozi), the shameless self-promotion by academics (Sachs), and the attacks on Larry Summers after the White House leaked his name a month ago, and the NGOs’ unwillingness to go beyond criticizing the selection process to specify the selection criteria and how to apply them, the rumored White House frontrunner, Susan Rice, is in trouble.

Visibility at the UN is a big asset for an international job.  In some ways it compensates for Dr. Rice’s lack of first-hand experience on development issues, and inexperience at running a big organization in the public sector.

The downside is that you make enemies.  And Russia and China are not the kind of enemies you want if the White House was thinking of you as Robert Zoellick’s successor. Continue reading

With Larry Summers’ World Bank Bid in Trouble, Mexico Insists on Open Process

Early last week the New York Times reported that despite all the previous fine rhetoric about the G20 and consultation and open process, the US Treasury Department had decided to rule by decree and impose its own candidate for the next president of the World Bank, the G20 be damned. U.S. officials informed G20 officials that the US intended to “retain control of the bank,” as the Times put it. According to the Times, the G20 countries grumbled but showed no sign of being willing to fight Treasury. The U.S. candidate would be a “lock,” the Times said, “since Europe will almost certainly support whomever Washington picks.” Continue reading

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.

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. … Continue reading