Deadline nearing

With only about three hours to go before the close of nominations, it looks as if the flawed process is yielding but one candidate, the flawed Jim Yong Kim.

It’s not as if there’s great enthusiasm. Michael Clemens’s article in HuffingtonPost makes a strong case for breaking the US lock on the World Bank presidency. He notes that “Criticism of the Bank’s practice of putting citizenship ahead of merit in the selection of a president has been constant over the years,” as the US share of the Bank has fallen over the decades. This is not 1947.

More devastating was Devesh Kapur’s impassioned piece about the Bank’s rush to irrelevance. He flags Dr Kim’s advantage as the incumbent, ‘…to grant favors to win support: make loans that play to influential shareholders’ pet preferences, promise certain countries spots on the leadership roster, and stamp the Bank’s imprimatur on particular governments’ own domestic initiatives,” concluding that “Given the contents of Kim’s political toolkit, this match was never going to be played on a level field.” Kapur, who speaks with the authority of an ‘inside outsider’, having written the 50 years of the Bank’s history, alludes to how Dr Kim has actually managed the Bank since he took over:

His administration has been marked by authoritarianism and capriciousness, and he has forced out senior managers at unprecedented rates, sometimes requiring the Bank to reach quiet settlements with those affected. In four years, the president’s office has had five chiefs-of-staff, and several of the Bank’s senior women have left, hinting at a capricious leadership culture.

He notes, though, that the lack of interest in emerging markets and in civil society more generally may well reflect another reality

The world’s emerging powers no longer need the World Bank as much as they once did. Having found their own alternatives for most of what the Bank does, their indifference to a second term for Kim suggests that they simply don’t think the Bank matters much anymore.

That’s sad, but broadly accurate; between AIIB and NDB, private investment and better domestic resource mobilization, and knowledge sources of varying reliability (from the web to the McKinsey Institute), the gap between what the Bank’s clients know and can do and what the Bank knows and can advise on has narrowed. On the character side, Kapur doesn’t even mention the tux, the fallen tree, and the chartered aircraft, and the departure of senior women. all of which the Board is happy to say meet the expenditure targets and reflect leadership habits they’re pretending are on course and reflect ‘successful reforms.’ Dr Kim is not Jim Wolfensohn.

As might be expected, former World Bank officials are weighing in. A FT letter signed by 41 retired senior staff demands a longer search process and period. An even more muscular letter to Le Monde makes largely the same point.

So, as Matt McGuire, the US Executive Director, and the Board’s chair (who presided over the defeat of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Dr Kim’s selection four years ago) wait for 6pm ET, there are two questions that remain.

  • If Dr Kim is the only nominee, is the Board prepared to meet to interview him, formally comparing his record and his vision against the five criteria they established in 2011, or is being the only nominee enough to claim the job? Will they seek input from the World Bank Group Staff Association, staff in general, and civil society?
  • Can anyone make a positive case for Dr Kim’s reappointment. One planted op-ed did a poor job, but aside from the Bank’s PR staff saying “the shareholders strongly support his reforms” (?!), would anyone care to write up the case for Dr Kim, for us all to see?

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