Nonsense about Wolfowitz’s Successor (UPDATE)

Now that June 30th has been fixed as Paul Wolfowitz’s last day at the World Bank, it’s time to talk bluntly about his successor. 

Fortunately, the White House’s initial ludicrous proposal was rebuffed that PW must stay until an (American) successor is in place.  There are perfectly competent people on hand to do the work of the Bank as a thoughtful succession process, driven by the Board and with significant global public input, is followed.  The press nonetheless is speculating about successors, but let’s be careful:  That’s how Paul Wolfowitz picked his entourage and senior staff. 

It’s time to look at the qualifications needed for this important job, at this important time.

The Board needs to decide today that it is urgently important that PW get out of the way as soon as possible.  It is only five weeks to the end of the fiscal year on June 30 and all sorts of business must be concluded.  Wolfowitz adds no value and in fact, he makes that process more difficult. There is no budget and no strategy, and so on.  Wolfowitz should play no role in performance evaluations either — let alone in raises for many of the senior Bank team who told him to resign!  Let him organize his papers for his memoirs, or do some gardening at home in Chevy Chase, spend quality time with his family, or plan his first private trip to Africa.
 
Importantly, there is crucial meeting of the IDA deputies in Maputo in June, and no one will be prepared to conclude negotiations if he is in place.  If he leaves, we have to assume is that there is a “no-Wolfowitz premium” to be reaped in the IDA fundraising.  The Bank Group has, after all, thrown off a corrupt leadership, and now can say with humility that it knows how hard it is so that the old advice about governance and anticorruption can now be tempered with humility and pragmatism.
 
Against the background of a Wolfowitz-free zone, the G-7 finance ministers should use the opportunity afforded by their Potsdam get-together this weekend to have a thoughtful discussion about a succession process, even if it is to be an American candidate.   If Bush administration presents a fait accompli this time — and we are hearing from White House sources that all of a sudden they are focused on a ‘quick and immediate’ replacement — it will (1) likely be rejected and likely should be rejected by the shareholders, and (2) set the next World Bank president up for failure, too. 
 
Having come this horrible distance, the institution can only aim high — for a proper selection based on merit and qualification, with full consultation with the shareholders and input from external stakeholders, and for consideration of non-U.S. candidates.

The circumstances are historically unique.  If there is ever going to be a change, it needs to be now while the world is watching, with a very lame duck American administration, a Democratic Congress and a united Europe. When will that happen again?  The process doesn’t have to take months or even weeks, but it should not happen in a day either.
 
But we first need to set down markers for the qualifications that the next president should have, so that we can measure the name that comes forth against a complex job description for a complicated job.  

Right now we are hearing too many names, but not enough about abilities.
Here is our list:  
 
A healer and a leader — respectful, listens, able to soothe trouble waters, pragmatic
Executive management experience — able to run a large, complex organization
Leader — able to build effective teams, alliances, empower others to do their best
Forward-looking, strategic, change manager — ability to get the development world into 21st century rapidly
Vision — about technological and economic trends changing markets for our services
Ability to manage soft assets (knowledge, convening power, brand), not just hard assets (money)
Commitment to the big issues — governance, climate change, health, education, trade, gender, human rights
International experience, especially in developing countries and Africa
Multicultural skills

Multilingual and having lived outside his/her own country would be strongly desirable, though the Bank got that wrong with Wolfowitz.
 
Two outstanding candidates are Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of HP, and Trevor Manuel, the South African Finance Minister.  Both would move the development debate light years ahead.  One is American, the other African. Both are superbly qualified.
 
Finally, let’s correct the PW-spun impression that this has been about staff resisting change.  On the contrary, Bank staff are appalled and worried that this president and his band of cronies have gotten to the brink of his third fiscal year in a five-year term without even a draft medium term strategy. Three versions have been rejected.  The Bank needs an ambitious, creative plan to meet a changing market for development finance, knowledge and services.  The work Francois Bourguignon is leading presents the economists’ view of 2015.  That needs to be tempered with other practical, practitioner perspectives.

Many Bank jobs may be affected, but Bank staff aren’t stupid: this kind of change is what development partners help countries do all the time.  Let’s get on with it, but with care and respect, and a view for talent and solid ethical values in Washington and in the Bank’s far-flung empire of country offices.
 
With much damage done, the Bank and its supporters have to make some good come out of this.

Even this White House could make lemonade out of lemons and turn this around in its own favor if it thought about it for half a second.  We can even say, despite evidence to the contrary, that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney acted in good faith by imposing Paul Wolfowitz on the Bank two years ago.  Because two blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, they have more bad news coming in the 612 days we have before we’re rid of them:  Gonzales, Rove, US Attorneys, Wolfowitz at DoD, the list is long.

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