Although a certain former first lady has been constantly mooted as Zoellick’s successor it seems that Obama may be also considering another candidate. Larry Summers is former Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, and head of the National Economics Council under Obama, and is currently a professor at Harvard. He is also rather notorious for his part in the deregulation of the finance sector, brazen comments on the ‘scientific aptitude’ of women, and for advocating increased pollution in developing countries as a cost-cutting exercise.
Needless to say he is what is politely called a ‘divisive’ figure. After a brief period in which commentators seemed to be momentarily stupefied by the news, Summer’s candidacy has now provoked a rapid, and incredulous, response from the political blogosphere.
Felix Salmon at Reuters pleads:
Please, Barack, don’t do it! … giving him the World Bank job would be a disaster.
Before adding that:
giving the job to any American is a bad idea. We’re long past the point at which it makes any sense at all that the president of the World Bank should always be an American.
David Dayen at popular blog Fire Dog Lake likens Summers to a zombie, and seconds Salmon’s view that he should not be appointed to the role:
You just can’t get rid of zombie Larry Summers. He can get drummed out of Harvard. He can see the deregulation policies he pushed in the Clinton Administration lead to a financial meltdown. He can preside over a sluggish economy for two years during the Obama Administration, after which Congress flips to the opposition. And he just keeps falling upwards
Over at the Huffington Post Jason Linkins asks whether ‘Surely President Obama Is Joking About This ‘Have Larry Summers Run The World Bank’ Thing!’. His view is no less damning:
At any rate, it seems pretty clear that his prickliness, his record of being a source of dysfunction, and that teensy little thing where the policies he supported helped wreck the economy would all disqualify Summers
Any thoughts on Summers dear readers?
Assuming the rumour mill is right and World Bank president Robert Zoellick will shortly announce that he’ll step down after one term (his time’s up in June) then, what happens next?
Well that depends on whether the Bank’s board lives up to its promises or not. At least since October 2008, the World Bank development committee (Ministerial level executive board) has endorsed an “open, merit-based and transparent” selection process, “with nominations open to all Board members and transparent Board consideration of all candidates.”
You’ll notice the elephant though – no specific reference to ending US customary control over selection (so far there have been 11 World Bank Presidents – all men, all with US citizenship.) Rumours are already circulating on who the US government might be lining up as their candidate – Larry Summers now supplanting Hilary Clinton as the supposed front runner. But will the other 186 countries that are members of the Bank let this happen, or will they (or at least the developing countries who are the only ones who will have to live with World Bank policies and programmes) try and force the genuine contest that they’ve promised so many times?
The nitty gritty
Last spring, the Bank’s executive board endorsed a paper – summarised below – on Presidential selection [it was then ‘welcomed’ by the Ministers of the Bank’s development committee]. It is very short and fairly disappointing, detailing a very secretive process with no opportunity for external input, and a large amount of the detail – including the length of the process – left to be decided by the Board each time.
So surely it’s time to revisit this process and make some real improvements…. But where to look for ideas? Thankfully a coalition of organisations published a comprehensive blueprint last year for IMF selection – nattily titled Heading for the right choice?
For the wonks – here’s the highlights from the April Board paper:
- “A proven track record of leadership;
- Experience managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector;
- Ability to articulate a clear vision of the Bank’s development mission;
- A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and
- Effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality and objectivity.”
- “Governors may nominate [candidates].”
- “the length for the nomination period be clearly defined and communicated by the Board of Executive Directors in the context of a particular selection process.”
- “The WG recommends a shortlisting process in circumstances where the number of candidates exceeds three … through … an informal straw poll … prior to formal voting.”
Confidentiality / secrecy
- “The list of nominated candidates “would be held in confidence by the Board of Executive Directors”
- “Once the Board arrives at a shortlist of candidates, the WBG would publish the names of those shortlisted candidates, with their consent.”
Interviews and selection
- “formal interviews by the Board of Executive Directors be conducted for all shortlisted candidates”
Yes, Zoellick’s term is up this year, and the rumour mill is going into overdrive – most suggesting that he’s gonna step down so he can return to his first love: Republican Party politics.
So we’ve redesigned and relaunched your favourite blog site (check out all those social media buttons) where you can get all the news, views, and gossip about how his successor should be selected, who should get the job, and what their priorities should be. Multiple professor (at both Canadian and Indian universities) Sunil Chacko already got the ball rolling with a recent Huffington Post article.
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So keep coming back to follow the battle for the Bank in real time!