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

Continue reading

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.

Tick-Tock

Tick-tock, tick-tock – that is the sound of time slipping away from the World Bank’s efforts to hold on to whatever remains of its legitimacy as a global development leader that lives by and values its own rhetoric about democratic governance, meritocracy and transparency.

As the minutes of 14 September 2016 slip inexorably away, so does the likelihood that any of the Bank’s shareholders will dare put forth a candidate to compete with the US’ anointed heir to the throne, as today is the deadline for nominations.

Perhaps one should not complain.  Surely a three week nomination period beginning at the height of the summer holiday season is evidently plenty of time for careful and considered discussion and nomination process for the leader of ‘the world’s pre-eminent’ development institution.  It is clear, after all, that the US found plenty of time to carefully consider the various options and to make the necessary calls. Who could possibly disagree – we mean, of those who count, excluding those pesky critics from misguided NGOs or spoiled staff crying over their lattes? Continue reading

3 week application period – are you kidding?

So, the blog is back, now that the World Bank board has officially launched a selection process for the next World Bank President. A task this big takes a bit of time, right? Not according to the Bank’s board who leave a little over three weeks for accepting nominations. Three weeks! When we’re selecting interns, we leave at least a month, normally 6 weeks to give good candidates the chance to think about it and submit a decent application. But apparently selecting the head of one of the world’s most powerful International Financial Institutions is a less rigorous process…

It’s already clear that the US is trying to stitch up a second term for the US-backed incumbent, Jim Kim. Do we really need to by emphasise that in 2016 it’s not acceptable for the US to choose who gets to be the head of the World Bank – an institution that only operates in developing countries?

What should the correct selection process look like? This is what I wrote last time round:

“If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:

  • Public interviews. It will simply not be credible if the Board selects a candidate behind closed doors with no one else able to see how the candidates stood up to questioning.
  • Manifestos for candidates. Every candidate should be required to set out what he or she think the main challenges facing the Bank are and how they would deal with them as President.
  • Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
  • Transparent voting. All countries should vote individually, not through their constituencies, and should announce who they are voting for and why.

Of course, none of this would prevent the backroom deals that the US will use to ensure its candidate gets in, but at least everyone would be able to judge who the best candidate really is, and learn a lot more about what they stand for. None of these are difficult to organise, and all of them take place routinely at national level for senior public servants.  Why not for the World Bank?”

These seem to me to still be extremely reasonable demands (set out in much more detail in this paper on selecting the IMF boss.)  The first demand we should all be making is a significant extension to the application process: 3 months (or more) would be much more appropriate than 3 weeks.