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

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

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.

No transparency, no legitimacy: the backlash begins

A great op-ed in the Guardian by fellow blogger (and former colleague) Peter Chowla – he’s perhaps too modest to post if for himself, so I’ve done that for him below.  Also signs that the inevitable backlash against the winner’s legitimacy – given the lack of transparency of the process – has begun, with critical comments from Oxfam and Save the Children in this piece.

Here’s Peter’s op-ed Continue reading

Russia backs Kim

Yesterday Russia joined the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, and Japan in saying they will back Kim.  They have only 1.7 per cent of the votes at the Bank, but they do have one of the 25 board seats. And they’re the first BRICS country to come out for him.  Perhaps tellingly, their statement didn’t explain why they preferred Kim to his more experienced challenger, Okonjo-Iweala.  I expect this is the route those backing Kim for (misguided) geopolitical considerations will go. Praise Kim, don’t mention the alternative, or how they decided his merits were better than Okonjo-Iweala’s. We shall see soon enough.

It’s all over: Dartmouth has spoken

While Bank-watchers were expecting the final decision to be made next week, we should have paid more attention to more reputable sources.  I’m talking of course of Dartmouth College, the US Ivy League school no one outside of the US had ever heard of until its President was plucked from nowhere to run for the World Bank Presidency. Ok, Ok, I’m being unfair. Probably not that many in the US had heard of it either.

But we should all have paid more attention, as they were the first to officially call the outcome of the race. Yes, their head of media relations (a big job, now at least) tells us: Continue reading