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16 January

15 January

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What does Javanka mean for the World Bank?

Politico has the biggest sensation of the week when it reported on Monday about Ivanka’s prospects for the World Bank. In the topsy turvy world of today’s politics its headline missed the mark. Rather than leading with “Ivanka Trump not under consideration for World Bank chief” the headline should have been:

“Ivanka is overseeing the internal search for a nominee to lead the World Bank”

That is an amazing statement. The search for the World Bank president nominee by the US Administration is being headed by an unpaid aide with no background in economics, finance, or development! If I were in the Treasury I would not not be amused.

Javanka – as the combination of Jared and Ivanka is known – will have their hands full trying to figure out a nominee. Or will they? They could just pick a loyal friend or someone whom the Trumps owe a favour. That wouldn’t be too different than the processes to pick some of the past Presidents. But in today’s climate and with this US Administration that is less likely to a lifelong Republican stalwart and more likely to be someone who has been on the fringes of politics for most of their life. Continue reading

Selection Criteria – déjà vu all over again

The World Bank’s board published its timeline and criteria for selection last week and it’s a cut and paste from the last time there was a proper selection process in 2012 (we won’t count 2016 as there was no pretense that anyone other than the incumbent should apply).

The main critique I made of the process in 2012 still stands now:

But here’s the most damning point.  The list of qualifications for the job does not mention the need to know anything about developing countries, or anything about poverty reduction.

The obvious reason for this is that the US has a track record of finding it difficult to rustle up candidates who have this kind of experience – in this regard Jim Kim was a rare exception, even if his experience was very thin on other elements of the job description.

Prior to Kim, we had:

  • Bob Zoellick (2007-12): US government trade rep, Goldman Sachs banker etc. Development experience: very limited
  • Paul Wolfowitz (2005-7): US government official, academic, neo-con etc. Development experience: very limited
  • James Wolfensohn (1995-2005): Investment banker, cello player etc. Development experience: extremely limited
  • Etc etc

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Jim Yong Kim’s mixed messages to the World Bank, and the world

Johannesburg – World Bank president Jim Kim is an ex-leftist who claims that in the mid-1990s he wanted to shut down the Bank. At the time, it was an entirely valid, realistic goal of the 50 Years is Enough! campaign and especially the World Bank Bonds Boycott. Kim’s co-edited Dying for Growth (2000) book-length analysis of the Bank’s attacks on Global-South public health offered very useful ammunition.

However, not only did Kim subsequently make an ideological U-turn, as we see below, but more importantly, among the casualties of the 9/11 attacks were many such movement-building efforts aimed at a common international enemy. The global justice scene faded quickly as a result of new divisions between social activists and U.S. labour patriots, the shift by internationalists into anti-war mobilising, and the ascendance of NGO-led World Social Forum talk-shopping. Other more hopeful recent leftist waves also ebbed: Latin America’s Pink Tide and 2011’s Occupy moment in many sites across the world. Perhaps the recent revival of social-democratic politics in the two core (Anglo-American) sites of neoliberalism will make this post-2001 lapse appear as an only temporary setback.

If so, one inevitable site to identify neoliberalism’s coldest logic – and sometimes most brute-force muscles – is the World Bank, an institution often engaged in self-delegitimisation. So if activists across the globe do not currently have a central site of resistance, nevertheless countless battles are being waged at any given time against Bank projects and ideology. The battle over its leadership is worth close attention. Continue reading

Aaaand we’re back! Kim announces surprise departure, kicking off a sooner than expected leadership challenge

Jim Yong Kim speaking at a Development Conference

Jim Yong Kim announced on 7 January he is leaving the World Bank for the private sector. Credit: World Bank.

World Bank Group (WBG) President Jim Yong Kim announced his resignation on Monday, 7 January, to the apparent surprise of the World Bank’s Board of Directors and senior staff.

In a letter to staff, Kim indicated that his departure was “unexpected”, and that he would be joining a private investment firm, stating that “this is the path through which I will be able to make the largest impact on major global issues like climate change and the infrastructure deficit in emerging markets.” On 9 January, it was announced that Kim will join Global Infrastructure Partners as a Vice Chairman and Partner.

Since Kim’s shock announcement, questions have swirled about why he chose to depart with more than three years remaining on his second term – he was re-appointed in September 2016 – and indeed whether his new role represents a potential conflict of interest, given the Bank’s aggressive promotion of mobilising private finance for infrastructure projects under his leadership. Continue reading

The curtain comes down, but the (same old) show goes on … and on

This morning we had official confirmation from the Bank that Jim Kim will not face any competitors in his bid for his tenure at the Bank to be renewed. With absolutely no intention to reduce this coronation to a farce-like procession, the Bank has indicated they will strictly adhere to the appropriate procedures.

These 2011 procedures are worth quoting:

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim in Lima, Peru on June 29, 2013. Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez

In response to the DC Communiqués calling for “open, merit-based and transparent selection of the World Bank President,” the Executive Directors have approved a process for selecting the World Bank President as an important part of the governance and accountability reforms.

Well, so much for that.

Kim will shortly be interviewed by the board and should that process determine that he is the best candidate in a field of one expect an October announcement confirming Kim’s re-appointment at the forthcoming annual meetings.