For My Mother: Don’t Let Larry Summers Lead the World Bank

Life has a way sometimes of throwing two superficially unrelated things across your path simultaneously in a way that forces you to contemplate their underlying connections.

Even at this late date, press reports suggest that President Obama is still considering nominating Larry Summers to be the next President of the World Bank.

Yesterday morning, my mother passed away. 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.

Obama advisor says why Larry Summers won’t be the US nominee

Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House advisor, made it clear in an interview why it’s just as well Larry Summers is happy as President Emeritus at Harvard.

In this Daily Beast interview Jarrett used the occasion to hint how important women are to Obama’s re-election. He enjoys solid support and higher approval ratings than his Republican challengers.

Jarrett was pretty clear: “The jobs of the future are science, engineering and math, and those are the jobs that women have shied away from,” she said. The guarantee of a strong education for every child is the magic bullet, and the administration is working toward that goal. “If you have an education, then the sky is the limit,” she said. Teaching our daughters and colleagues confidence is crucial to the formula for women’s success.”

Summers would, no doubt, agree on the future of good American jobs, and how important it is for more women to be in these STEM fields.  That’s not his reputation, alas, after his speech at Harvard before the faculty removed him, and the White House isn’t going to risk alienating a key bloc of supporters in November.

Discuss among yourselves, journalists. If the reaction to the earlier White House leak didn’t take Summers out, this interview should make it clear that Larry will be staying in Cambridge.

Campaigners launch action against Larry Summers nomination

A campaign group in the US has launched an online petition demanding that President Obama NOT nominate Larry Summers. The campaign group is called UltraViolet and it “fight[s] to expand women’s rights and combat sexism everywhere – from politics and government to media and pop culture.” Here is what their action says: Continue reading