Kim’s legacy: Is the patient worse off for the doctor’s intervention?

As Jim Kim enjoys his last day at the helm of what he obviously considers an organisation of fairly limited influence, it is a good time to do a bit of stock-taking of our own.

One could of course say many things about the doctor’s reign at the Bank (and I would in fact invite you, dear reader, to do so in the comments section below). Given his proud mention that he had ‘read up one side of Marx to the other’ and his near religious faith in the private sector’s miraculous metamorphosis into a benefic development actor, one hopes he was a more attentive medical student.

He at least seemed to be more engaged in whatever management consultancy books he used to assist him in convincing shareholders to agree a capital increase in the absence of any significant structural changes to the way the organisation works. In light of well-documented concerns within the Bank about the lack of focus on development outcomes and the pernicious impact of counter-productive staff incentives, this seems indeed quite an ‘accomplishment’. Perhaps he is right in asserting that it is the right time to depart and, literally, capitalise on the work he has done in making the world’s most important public bank ever more like one of the private sector firms he so admires.

While much has been written about the negative consequences of his, er… less-than-stellar, management acumen, his trend toward centralisation and exclusion of opposing views, to me the most significant element of his legacy is his energetic contribution in turning the Bank further away from its development mandate and into a poster-child for corporatized and financialised development (if one can use this word here). Continue reading

The non-Americans: A who’s who of non-US candidates for the World Bank’s top job

Who do you think would be the best non-US candidate? Participate in the poll here

While much of the media coverage since Jim Yong Kim’s resignation has fixated on who the Trump Administration will pick as its nominee for World Bank president (see here for odds of favourites – including US passport holders Indra Nooyi, David Malpass, Ray Washburne, Dame Nemat Minouche Shafik and Dina Powell), the notion that it’s time for a non-American to lead the Bank has increasingly entered the public discourse as the Bank nears its 75th birthday, with a number of op-eds calling for an end to the American monopoly of the Bank’s presidency (for examples, see here, here and here).

Let’s be frank: the odds still favour the appointment of an American nominee. But a less-than-satisfactory US nominee could put pressure on key Bank shareholders who have historically supported the US-backed candidate (namely Japan and European shareholders, with the latter supporting the US nominee in return for a European remaining at the helm of the IMF). Any member of the executive board will be able to nominate candidates from 7 Feb. The lingering question is, will non-US executive directors dare?

Civil society has long favoured an open application process; after Kim’s resignation, the World Bank’s staff also backed this demand. However, as the Board has made clear that candidates need to be nominated by executive directors, this will limit the scope of how ‘open’ and ‘transparent’ the process actually is.

In lieu of a completely open process, the nomination of a large number of qualified candidates by World Bank executive directors is the next best thing; yet, whispers from DC suggest this is unlikely, and that various members of the Board are angling for the ‘least bad’ US nominee. Continue reading

Managing the World Bank Group ‘successfully’

The Board’s Executive Directors have left their second selection criterion dangerously inadequate. 

  • “experience of managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector”

I would have thought “successfully managing” is what the world expects. Maybe that goes without saying, even if the Board’s recent history on selecting World Bank presidents from available nominees is uneven.

Let’s consider some markers for “successfully”.

Let’s see what results were achieved during the candidate’s tenure, and what can be attributed to him or her.  A lot of résumé padding involves taking credit for things others do and would have done anyway, activities done by teams of staff with external partners they know. Examples I can think of are NAFTA2 (aka USMCA/CUSMA), IDA replenishments, ‘clean’ audits. Not eligible would be Brexit, the SDGs, and the Paris Accord (a collective success for negotiations, and a collective ‘incomplete’ for early implementation).

Talent management is what managers primarily do. What is the candidate’s experience at attracting and retaining senior staff? Have non-performers been exited for cause, and have any left because they felt the candidate managed poorly, to the organization’s detriment? Continue reading

Setting the bar for Dr Kim’s successor

Now that the initial puzzled excitement over Jim Yong Kim’s abrupt resignation and short notice has abated, and the fun speculating over replacements has passed, the tough work of selecting a suitable successor must begin.

Civil society and journalists can gossip about why and why now, and question whether his rumored $20mn signing bonus is appropriate for a man without any skills or experience in infrastructure, investment, or private equity. Fine, but that’s not as important as finding someone excellent to head up the Bank Group starting this spring less than two years after he was given an undeserved second term. 

Governments, I hope, are looking at suitable candidates—women and men—for these challenging, anti-multilateralism times, and civil society is watching. So are World Bank Group staff.

But first things first: let’s flesh out the criteria that the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors have announced for a transparent, open, and merit-based appointment. Yes, we’ve heard that before, and as Lant Pritchett famously observed in 2017 when Dr Kim was reanointed, “this time is last time’s next time.” Will we be fooled and disappointed again? Continue reading

World Bank president: list of reforms African states should be demanding

I have written an article suggesting that even though the next President of the World Bank will be an American, the selection of the President offers an opportunity to reform World Bank governance and making the Bank more publicly accountable to all its member states and their citizens.

This can be done if African states offer the US and their European allies a deal. They will agree to support the US nominee for President in return for their agreement to implement the following package of reforms:

  • The President will be required to issue an annual public report evaluating how well the Bank is performing against some agreed benchmark; for example, the sustainable development goals. This report will be reviewed by a committee of representatives of the Bank’s stakeholders who will issue their own public report assessing the Bank’s performance against the same benchmark. The advisory council provided for in article 6 of the Bank’s articles of agreement could perform this role.
  • The World Bank’s existing independent accountability mechanisms will be strengthened so their findings become binding. These mechanisms investigate claims by communities and groups of individuals who allege that they have been harmed by the actions of the Bank in Bank-funded projects. The Bank, however, is not bound by the findings of these investigations and so may not take the remedial actions required to resolve the problem.

Continue reading

Who will the G24 back?

We know that the USA will expect their candidate to be rubber stamped – but will it be that easy? A lot depends on the G24 – the grouping of developing countries that coordinates positions in the World Bank (and IMF). They will be engaged in an intensive process of coming up with potential alternative candidates, and seeing if they can peel away enough Western states to make life difficult for the US.

What does the math look like? Developing countries – those classified as low-income or middle-income by the Bank – have nine of the 25 World Bank Executive Directors. However, eight Executive Directors from high-income countries represent constituencies with developing countries in them (even if, in voting shares, they are normally a small share of the constituency total). They are Uruguay, Switzerland, Netherlands, Kuwait, Canada, Korea, Italy and Austria.

Can the G24 persuade enough of these EDs to side with them in the face of what will be intense pressure from the US? Continue reading

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