FT praises Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The FT published an editorial on Tuesday arguing that Nigeria’s minister of the economy and finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should get the World Bank presidency job. While recognising that the US candidate Jim Yong Kim “could be a good choice” because of his background in health and his managerial experience at the World Health Organisation, the FT states that “the Bank needs more than this”:

“Its new leader should have a command of macroeconomics, the respect of leaders of both the funding and the funded countries, and the management skills to implement his or her vision. These requirements make Ms Okonjo-Iweala the best person for the role.”

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We must examine candidates’ track record on rejecting the Washington Consensus

Below is a guest post from Vitalice Meja, Coordinator of Reality of Aid Africa Network.

The current debate on the next president to the World Bank is as interesting as it is puzzling. While for the first time there seems an opportunity for a candidate from a developing country to take over, the debate seems to focus around supporting individuals rather than their credentials on development agenda and transformation.

World Bank is a global institution and leading it requires a President who has an acumen to address the challenges that affect the world in a very pragmatic and dynamic manner. Such a candidate should not be limited by the failed ideological formations that have underpinned the institution of the World Bank.

For those in the developing world especially Africa, certain elements are paramount in deciding the right president for the bank. These include the following Continue reading

We beg to differ Mr. President

Two opinion pieces today, in the FT and Bloomberg, put forward the argument that Obama should have supported the nomination of Ngozi instead of proposing Jim Yong Kim.
In the FT’s “Obama made the wrong World Bank call”,  Edward Luce says ” if the World Bank board was required to find the best-qualified candidate for the job – Dr Kim would be unlikely to find himself on a shortlist of three. In contrast, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the only African in the running, would be among anyone’s top picks. But the process doesn’t work like that. In spite of Mr Obama’s internationalist aspirations, Continue reading

Sizing up the candidates

Now that we know the three candidates, a lot of ink will be spilled weighing them up against each other. I asked an expert with more than 30 years of experience on the field of development  finance to give an opinion. This expert – who has experience in the public, private and third sector – asked to remain anonymous because over the years the person had worked with several of the candidates (and expects to work with them all in the future). The assessment:

“We have 3 candidates. There seems to be a growing consensus that the winner needs to (a) be from a developing country rather than a US candidate; (b) be anti the Washington consensus agenda (privatisation and liberalisation) and pro-equitable and bottom up development; and (c) have experience of managing a large organisation.

So how do the candidates measure up to these criteria ?

Okonjo-Iweala: Continue reading

US World Bank nominee under fire over book

From Robin Harding of the FT 

Jim Yong Kim, the US nominee to head the World Bank, is coming under fire over a book he co-authored that criticises “neoliberalism” and “corporate-led economic growth”, arguing that in many cases they had made the middle classes and the poor in developing countries worse off.

Some economists are arguing thatDying for Growth, jointly edited by Dr Kim and published in 2000, puts too great a focus on health policy over broader economic growth.

“Dr Kim would be the first World Bank president ever who seems to be anti-growth,” said William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University. “Even the severest of World Bank critics like me think that economic growth is what we want.”

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The World Bank needs reform: democracy, accountability, climate change, and more

We closed the poll on which issues at the Bank need the most reform. You can see it at the bottom of the page. Its worth noting that there was a fairly even spread of issues that people thought needed reform. But the top issues were: democracy and accountability at the Bank; the Bank’s involvement in climate finance; improvement of public health systems; duty to respect and protect human rights; and the development impact of extractive industries. Lets review some of these, with some conjecture on the candidate’s positions:

First democracy and accountability – the first half of which is not strictly in the power of the Bank President. That said, the President can use his bully pulpit to argue for and demand changes in the alignment of power among shareholders. For all his many faults, this is something Strauss-Kahn did during his tenure at the IMF. While Zoellick’s parting words tried to put the multilateral into the Bank, he did precious little during his term to up the democracy quotient. The second half of that reform demand – accountability – is another matter. The president could set down the law about making sure there is greater participation by affected communities in Bank projects, and could also strengthen the independent accountability mechanisms at the Bank. By a rough read, this is not something that seems to be in the experience of US-nominee Jim Yong Kim, while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a Bank insider for decades is not seen as friendly to this agenda, while Jose Antonio Ocampo, as someone with a strong UN background, presumably takes inclusiveness more seriously. Continue reading