Former World Bank senior managers send an open letter to the Board

As reported earlier today by the AFP, “In an open letter, 39 former managers and economists called on the Bank’s executive board to make their decision on merit, when the board considers more than one candidate for the job for the first time.”

Here is the letter in full:

An open letter to the Executive Directors of the World Bank

We are a group of ex-World Bank Group managers (Senior VPs, VPs, Directors) watching with great interest the ongoing nominating process for the next President. We are writing in our personal capacities to share our views and concerns with the World Bank Executive Board and the broader development community, as the Executive Directors are about to interview the final three candidates for President of the World Bank. We care too much for the institution and for its historic development mission not to speak up, as a “friend of the court”, when for the first time the World Bank Executive Directors will be giving consideration to more than just one candidate.

The Process. All of us agree that the World Bank and all international financial institutions would enjoy considerably greater legitimacy and stronger management if their leadership were selected in an open, transparent, merit-based, and competitive manner rather than simply appointed in line with understandings that no longer reflect the world as it is today.

Progress has been made along this road. In response to the G20 call for a more open process, the Executive Board set up new guidelines in April 2011. They call for “an open, structured, deliberate process for generating a long list of candidates.” This, however, happened only partially. While three good candidates have been identified, the process has still involved nomination by governments, based in part on nationality, and without an agreed list of qualifying criteria. We believe it is essential that progress go further and that there be a list of criteria against which the candidates would be assessed, criteria that would reflect the key challenges facing the institution as times change. The long list of candidates should then be assembled by a committee of Executive Directors based on a wide search of willing individuals best qualified accordingly.

The World Bank has evolved over its history from a project-specific institution to one that plays a unique role at the intersection among a range of areas key to progress in development: linking economic management at the global and country levels with a deep commitment to sustainable growth, poverty reduction, institutional development, and achievement of Millennium Development Goals. The President of the World Bank should play a key role as both visionary and operational leader in advancing this crucial mission that includes a strong emphasis on macro-economic management as the world seeks to recover from its crippling economic and financial crisis.

The new president needs to be able to address the central issues facing the institution and lead in defining new approaches that are both human-centered and effective across the wide spectrum of countries the World Bank serves, from the poorest and most fragile states to strong emerging economies. The President will also need to navigate international fund raising and capital markets, broker agreements on the treatment of global issues and global public goods, bring to bear experience at top levels of governments, and have a track record in the management of large international organizations with a multicultural staff. Other selection criteria would appropriately include political savvy, courage, and listening skills, as well as personal experience of development. Exceptional ability to communicate why support for development is so critical can be transformative within international circles.

We urge that such criteria and vision be fully explored by the Board as it interviews the candidates in an open manner, free –to the extent possible– of political considerations extraneous to a merit-based process.

The Candidates. The three candidates have strong qualifications. Each would also brings unique qualities to the Bank: Dr. Kim would build on his experience in successful advocacy for delivering health services to the poorest against formidable odds and as a senior manager in the WHO and President of Dartmouth College. Mr. Ocampo would bring the experience of a Planning and Finance Minister and senior manager of ECLA and the United Nations Secretariat, and the lessons of the successes of development in Latin America. Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank’s hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to Managing Director. And she would be the first woman to head the institution.

For the first time, a choice has to be made. We believe that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria. At this time of momentous changes in the world, when the global economy remains fragile as the aftershocks of the financial crisis continue to reverberate, her deep experience in international and national issues of economic management, including links to sectoral initiatives, as well as her knowledge of the institution and how to increase its effectiveness would be invaluable assets. She would hit the ground running and get things done from the start. In a word, she would be the outstanding World Bank President the times call for.

The Executive Directors are making an important choice at a crucial moment for the future of the World Bank and of its role in a rapidly changing world. We hope that these thoughts will be of help as the Directors deliberate and decide.

Respectfully submitted,

Jaime Biderman

François Bourguignon

Shahid Javed Burki

Gerald Caprio

Uri Dadush

Roberto Danino

Dennis De Tray

Paula Donovan

Peter Eigen

Marisa Fernandez- Palacios

Alan Gelb
Ian Goldin

Ann O. Hamilton

Paul Isenman

Ian Johnson

Barbara Kafka

Maritta Koch-Weser

Olivier Lafourcade

Frannie A. Léautier

Philippe Liétard

Johannes Linn

Callisto Madavo

Katherine Marshall

Serge Michailof

Mustapha Nabli

Praful Patel

Gary Perlin

Maryvonne Plessis Fraissard

Christiaan A. Poortman

Jo Ritzen

Jean-Louis Sarbib

Jean-Michel Sévérino

Alexander Shakow

Richard Stern

Karl Voltaire

Peter Watson

26 thoughts on “Former World Bank senior managers send an open letter to the Board

  1. Pingback: myMADRE » Jim Yong Kim Chosen as World Bank President

  2. I am glad Ms Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria Finance did not make the cut as World Bank president. What would her appointment as WB president have done for Nigeria?
    Ms Okonjo-Iweala is not committed to Nigeria. Her interest can be likened to one seeking appointive positions to enhance her job seeking appetites.

    Most Nigerians are not informed about the role and functions of the WB. So anytime one of their own gets a job at the WB, it is almost like an ‘Eureka’ moment, calling for national celebration. Such euphoria is an indication that the people are limited in what they believe is path to their national interest and development. As US faces challenges in its economy, a World Bank president right there in Washington DC, is hardly sought after to offer opinion on what US should do. Majority of US citizens do not understand what WB does and will feel offended if they were to get solutions from the bank. Just like we do not want UN to tell US what to do.

    Ms Okonjo-Iweala, in her second merry go round as Nigeria Finance Minister, has not succeeded in promoting policies to enhance the Naira value against the Dollar/Euro/Pound. Instead, she has sought yet a return to a desk job as WB staff. She sees Nigeria as a playground, and I hope the Nigeria political class begin to demand from the appointees commitment or they should be fired. When Ms Okonjo-Iweala, first debut under Obasanjo administration, Nigerians felt here comes a ‘Daniela To Justice’. Well, shortly after her lacking and unimpressive role, she quickly returned to WB. Then GEJ, in following or rather towing the line of those who are impressed by anyone who may have worked at IMF, WB, UN, quickly tapped her again as Finance Minister and further sweetened the role giving her additional responsibility as Coordinating Minister for Economic Development, almost like 3rd in command. With all that, she failed to deliver palatable and amicable policy on fuel subsidy, only backing down when Nigerians took to the streets. Ever since she debut, Naira has remained a basket currency, each time losing value against the Dollar/Euro/Pound. That the Ethiopian currency Birr, is stronger than the Naira when Ethiopia supplies no oil to US and is a landlocked country with only one reasonable city Addis Ababa, should make anyone with knowledge of currency manipulation, stand up and ask questions. Can Ms Okonjo-Iweala, explain to Nigerians why Kenya and Ethiopia have stronger currencies than Nigeria? I would like to hear her explanations.

    Nations that are serious about their national interests must not be victims of WB/IMF prescriptions but seek internal programs and policies suited for their development. In January at the height of Nigeria fuel subsidy crisis, Ms Okonjo-Iweala, was happy to parade Madam IMF president to naive and shy Nigeria leadership as if IMF president presence is an endorsement. I will bet Ms Okonjo-Iweala was setting up her interest to seek president of WB, by inviting Madam IMF, hoping the camaraderie would have become a browning point on her resume. Well, knowing the geopolitical sentiments that surrounds US male dominated landscape, it was not to be expected that IMF and WB will have females heading at the same time. Some quarters hold the view that appointing Ms Okonjo-Iweala, who has no reach will damage the reputation of WB as no one will take her call. Had Ms Okonjo-Iweala, sought opinions, she should have gracefully declined, stating that serving Nigeria instead of the world, is more fulfilling and satisfying. But in a blind pursuit, she offered up her name.

    Ironically, even as most EU members including France are faced with troubles in their economies, the French national parliament has not sought solutions from IMF. Developed nations take pride in solving their problems, and because of pride, will not be seen as kowtowing to foreign institutions. It is a case of doctor cure thyself, but the doctor rather not take their own prescription.

    As long as Africa is dependent on foreign prescribed solutions from WB, IMF, UN and other donor nations, her chances of emerging as a continent of collateral content will be like expecting the sun to rise from the West.

    Nigeria is the world’s most populous black nation but one whose national interests are often secondary to any foreign one. If nations should do what FDR eloquently stated, ‘no nation should undermine her economic interests’, how come Nigerians think by two timing between theirs and that of foreign interests, they will be formidable?

    Even the Bible makes reference to the fact, ‘no one who serves two masters shall end up doing a good job’. Well, with all the churches, preachers, priests, prophets, pastors, and screaming men and women of God that parade Nigeria, it is still a challenged nation given its size and human capital. If Ms Okonjo-Iweala is serious, she should forget looking for job and serve the people of Nigeria.

    Serving in the capacity of WB president, has no collateral value for Nigeria. China today that is giving everyone a run for their money; true or false, never had a Chinese as WB president and will not seek one either. Nigerians believe WB/IMF are their passage to economic well being. Well, if the saying s/he pays the piper dictates the tone, what makes Nigerians think WB has their best interest at heart?

    WB/IMF, are command and control arms of the west hoisted on unsuspecting nations who are clueless on marshaling fiscal and monetary policies suited to their national interest. If nations have the sovereign rights to their well being, why ask another for solutions to their situation? A zillion Naira question. But one I am afraid, Nigeria present leadership is neither prompted nor suited to address.

    Dallas, Texas

  3. I am of the view that the post of the Pesident of World Bank is too important to be open to debates based on sentiments rather than facts. In filling any such important position the first considerations are relevant qualifications and experience, while other issues like bringing about the desired change, which can be achieved insitu, fall into place only after these prime considerations. The world should not make the mistake of putting a square peg in a round hole in the choice of the head of an institution like the World Bank. Obviously Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the most suited for the job out of the three contenders. Give her the job.

  4. Pingback: World Bank Race Heats Up | We Want To Be Free

  5. Prof. Ocampo is a better candidate than Dr ngozi. for president of the world bank..she is an insider…not good for change…she will suffer from group think….

  6. Pingback: World Bank Race Heats Up | Freedom Report

  7. I believe Obama will not have a better choice than to support Okonjo Iweala,even when is come’s to the polical aspect of the confarment of the World Bank President because he is also an African man.

  8. These former World Bank Staff have done the right thing – they have thrown their full weight behind the indisputable best option for this job; let us hope that the World Bank Executive Committee listens to this “Voices of Reason.”

  9. okonjo iweala is best suited for the post of world bank president. she has the qualifications and necessary experience for the job. in a merit system, i don’t see anything stopping her from emerging.

  10. President Obama must listen very carefully to many undilluted voices supporting Dr Okonjo Iweala to become the next world bank president. Record shows woman has never be nominated world bank president since inception. and besides this woman past experience,qualification and knowledge qualified her more than any one else.The time has come woman voice should be heard very louder and clearer in one of the most prestigeous world financial institution. America and other countries embraces and respect the role of women .The world hope and expect Obama to making a rightful choice for nominating Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala the next president of the world bank..

  11. Pingback: Jim Yong Kim’s depressing tactical silence | Felix Salmon

  12. Mr. Voice of reason, I hope one day, you will reveal this veiled reason of yours and lets us know the voice behind the shadow!

  13. I would rather hold my breath and expect Obama and his co-travellers to do the right thing this time around. All eyes are on Washington. All ears are tuned to Washington. Will the establishment hold tight to the status-quo? Will the best candidate get the job?

    Surely, this is the time, the World bank board must cease it!

  14. A merit-based selection would be a wonderful thing. But more candidates doesn’t necessarily make that happen. Why does any member country vote for a candidate? Because s/he comes from the same region/block as that of the member; because the candidate’s government has promised that if that member votes for its candidate, it will vote for the member country’s candidate for the IMF/FAO/EC (select as appropriate); or because the candidate has promised that it will give the member country a vice-presidency, or more projects. It’s not behaviour that’s limited to any particular group of countries; it is the way of things. And it is not intended to be a merit-based system. It may happen that the best candidate gets the job, but that’s likely to be by chance rather than design. So don’t hold your breath.

  15. “Manifesto” is exactly the right word, but the campaign needs to be conducted with attention to details, an with the right audience.

  16. To clarify, Jesse, the 39 signatories to the letter they are trying to insert in the FT are former senior World Bank Group staff. Most of them had retired from the Bank, some over a decade ago. Only a handful worked with her when she was a World Bank managing director before her second and current tour of duty in her home country.

    They are ill-placed, in that regard, to comment on more than her strong record as a staff member and as a country director.

    As with any World Bank written communication, it went through a lot of messaging before it was dispatched, and their recollection of her is when she worked tirelessly and with focus at the country level. Their first-hand experience does not speak to her comfort with and effectiveness on global issues as colleagues when she most recently was in the Bank, surely another important part of the challenges facing the institution today.

    “Hitting the ground running” is what insiders–which these retirees were and some still are–would be expected to say. It’s sometimes hard to change direction, though, when you are running.

  17. I must always support the development of the underdeveloped nations, because of this, I support the candidacy of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, for she is the best candidate. She knows every nook and cranny of World Bank, She knows the measures on how the underdeveloped nations could be developed, and she is a sound cum highly knowledged Economist. I so much cherish her manifestoes. Christian A. C. Ihite: +231880430531

  18. There is always a complete clearification when Technocrats and Professionals render their rational contributions on how to solve any problem. In line with this, I strongly agree with the contributions of the World Bank Senior Managers that the emergence of the next World Bank Boss should be based stricktly on merit, open, transperent cum competitive manner. Obama is a democrat, but his intervention in this World Bank issue sounds like that of a dictator and a tyrrant in this modern time of civilization and democracy. He should learn to be detribalistic in this modern time. Americans are not the only existing people. Other people from other parts of the world should be given the time to demonstrate their own wisdom and rationality. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has proved to the world that she is capable, so, she should be given the chance to develop the underdeveloped nations of the world. We should not forget that we are talking about ECONOMICS, MANAGEMENT cum DEVELOPMENT, and not helth related and ordinary issues. Obama should rather think of making Jim Yong Kim the WHO president and not the World Bank President. From: Christian A. C. Ihite: +231880430531

  19. The three candidates to be voted for the sit of the world bank president are all qualified for the post.But i want the world to know that the decission of who
    becomes the next world bank president
    has been taken by GOD. Forget about politics and racism , forget about who nominated who and who has the lion share in the world bank. If the decision taken by the 187 member countries last year is to be follwed Dr iweala will
    be there. mama dont worry

  20. Pingback: Over 100 economists endorse Ocampo | World Bank President

  21. I agree with an open an transparent process of selection as stressed in this letter. I also understand the endorsement of the candidacy of Mrs Okonyo-Iweala since she has worked in the Bank and many of the people who have signed this letter have been her colleagues inside the Bank.

    The excecutive directors of the World Bank, however, should also look carefully at Jose Antonio Ocampo. His web page provides his CV and other pertinent information regarding his candidacy for president of the World Bank: including the the endorsement of more than 100 world known economists, information from the press around the world and two of his own writings about the Bank and his proposals if selected as its next president.

  22. How interesting that a number of these Bank retirees, many European and still resident in Washington, and some quite eminent, retired before Mrs Okonjo-Iweala returned as a Bank managing director. They are poorly placed to comment on her recent management style and record, her unique selling point as an insider. One owes her post-Bank employment to Ngozi, having done her a big Bank job favor when Ngozi quit as Nigeria’s foreign minister.

    A number of other, more recent, senior and respected retirees who run in the same Washington think tank and Bank contractor or post-retirement Bank consultant circles have not signed. Draw your own conclusions.

  23. This is indeed an important letter of support of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala written by people who have a really good, deep and current knowledge about the World Bank.

    I hope the Executives Directors read it carefully, and in doing so they remember that, at the end of the day, according to the statutes of WB, they are responsible as individuals for their decisions. I hope the EDs realize that this is a moment which merits more than just listening and obeying opinions of governments. As a group, I am certain that the EDs, if they really wanted it, have enough clout to help the World Bank align with the world.

  24. Over the last few weeks I have become a fan of this blog and have found most comments enlightening and interesting. However this last post left me cold. How come you publish this letter but not the one in support of Dr. Ocampo, where more than 100 of the most well-known economist around the globe endorse his candidacy? If you are interested, you may find it here Add that letter to the more than 100 Colombian economists also supporting him. To me, that kind of backing is greater not only in numbers but in weight.

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