Closing ranks

It seems to me that unless the developing countries, including the BRICS, close ranks behind one of their two candidates, Ngozi or Ocampo, they will all lose any legitimacy in calling for a merit based selection process with no regard to national origin.  If this does not happen very soon, I don’t see a reason for any of the industrial  nations to take them seriously enough to not vote with the US for Dr. Kim, or pay attention to any of their other demands for that matter.

I wonder if the non-biased observers on this blog have any thoughts on that.

11 thoughts on “Closing ranks

  1. I’m not sure what quoting Rawls has to do with anything.

    When all is said and done, “open, transparent and merit-based” is in the eye of the beholder, and not of those who actually carry it out. BWP’s views count as much as any other CSO’s. BWP could have spent its time wisely, asking DFID to get the UK executive director to lead the charge with her colleagues to make clear what that meant, and how it would be carried out. Getting agreement, and making it public, would have been the way to proceed.

    For whatever reason, BWP did not, according to the minutes BWP has kindly published on its website. And the month before the close of nominations was spent ranting about possible US candidates, including Larry Summers, whom the White House took down while they looked for someone less toxic and obvious, and not talking about process or asking how the criteria would be applied.

    Next time, five years hence, CSOs will have the possibility to influence the process, having thrown it away this time by acting too late if they felt it was so urgent. The Bank’s board, its owners, and the G20 said what they wanted. The walls of the room where they agreed that can’t be depended on for follow-up. Nor, apparently, could the World Bank’s board. While reasonable people can disagree on whether “merit-based” was applied, no one could reasonably call the process “open” or “transparent” when only governments could nominate (and we should include Brazil and Nigeria/South Africa/Angola) and the criteria for choice were so generic.

    Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around.

  2. “Abject failure by the board” is 110% correct.

    Even after the IMF issue a year ago, the Bank’s board sat on its hands and let Zoellick pretend to play Hamlet when it should have told him last year what the criteria would be to consider his reappointment. They should have spent the time usefully to consider and agree on the procedures for the ‘open, transparent and merit-based’ process, spoken of for so long, to appoint his successor should they decide not to reappoint him, or should he decide not to seek a second term.

    Abdication of leadership by both major shareholders (including China) and by the emerging and developing countries. And by the CSOs, who spent the month before nominations closed on March 23 speculating and arguing about candidates, instead of pressuring the Board and the owners to specify the process.

  3. You write: “And finally lets not go into the absurd by saying “The World Bank board’s sole allegiance is to the Bank. Not to their national interests.” We all know that whatever it says in the articles of agreement, this is pure fiction – especially for the directly appointed EDs serving at the will of their governments”’

    Wrong, if the articles of agreement are fiction then let them change these… but for the time being the question that should be posed, for instance to the Executive Director of the US is:

    Since the articles of agreement state that you and your colleagues are responsible, as individuals, who did YOU, as an individual, find to be the candidate with most merits to become the President, and why?

  4. I beg to differ! This has nothing to do with naivete and a lot to do with desire for reform and fair.just outcomes. I never once stated that the board would in actuality decide on merit. In fact you can see that I implied that political considerations will impinge on this. However as a member of civil society it is my role to demand and insist upon changes to business as usual so that it is not done with the same cronyism, bias, and injustice as in the past. It is not unreasonable to judge this by the prevailing standards and norms, nor by more ambitious fair and just ones. It is not as if this is a new issue which we spring on the scene last week. The Bretton Woods Project itself has been making this demand for 17 years (since its founding in 1995). Developing countries and other NGOs have been at it for longer. It is not unreasonable to judge a process by whether it is just. I suggest Voice of reason go back and read some John Rawls and the Theory of Justice (1971). In fact the Iranian ED to the IMF wrote an excellent working paper applying the theory of justice to IFI governance before he retired in 2006.

    Moving on, the appointment of a CEO in a corporate context is an election! It is an election by the board of the company. There you will have probably 12-16 people sitting together and deciding which candidate has the most merit. The big difference is that their deliberations are not conducted in the open nor is their process transparent. But I would argue that for a publicly owned institution where the shareholders are governments, more stringent rules of transparency should apply. The Shareholders of the Bank are ultimately all global citizens in that we can view the shareholder governments as holding companies, or cooperatives, owned by their citizens.

    And finally lets not go into the absurd by saying “The World Bank board’s sole allegiance is to the Bank. Not to their national interests.” We all know that whatever it says in the articles of agreement, this is pure fiction – especially for the directly appointed EDs serving at the will of their governments. You are right to say that the governors make the tradeoffs. The question is what interests are those governors trading off? Despite my plea above to consider governments as cooperatives owned by citizens (at least in the case of democratic systems), we also all know that governments are captured by elites and vested interests and permeated by ideology and factionalism.

    The final statement is correct – the Bank should have fixed the process much much earlier. How about in the wake of 2001 working group decision when we demanded it to be fixed? How about in 2005 after the Wolfowitz selection debacle or in 2007 after the Wolfowitz departure debacle? Or even in 2009 when the G20 and Development Committee committed to reformed processes? Or in 2011 when it was widely known that Zoellick would not seek another term? Or in 2011 when the Bank boadr saw the shenanigans across the road at the Fund? Abject failure on the part of the board and their political masters.

  5. I must tell you that your comment is the most unbiased analysis I have seen here. If you have a preference it was not perceived. However, you are absolutely right in your assertions and I must thank you for putting it bluntly and clearly.

    Since I am also biased towards a candidate, Ocampo, I must admit that your piece returns to me a hope for merit and transparency to come out and shine in this process. Let the best candidate, based on merit, win.

  6. All of Peter Chowla’s analysis assumes that the correct analogy is a political process like an election. The appointment of a CEO is not an election, and it is unreasonable and naive to judge this appointment, and the appointments of other senior officials in the global public sector, by that standard.

    The World Bank board’s sole allegiance is to the Bank. Not to their national interests. They are agents of their principals, the governors of the Bank back in their capitals, who make the tradeoffs between the views of the bloggers, the contributors to websites, the journalists and the informed public (including GAP and BWP), on the one hand, and their national interest and discretion on ‘merit-based’ on the other.

    What is sad in all this slanging and positioning so late in the game is the tardiness of thoughtful analysis and reasonable suggestions when the process could have been fixed. The best time to do that was when Robert Zoellick was appointed after Paul Wolfowitz was removed. Having missed that opportunity, and given how the replacement of DSK worked out last year at the IMF, the Bank’s board was remiss and irresponsible in waiting until late February 2012, when Robert Zoellick confirmed his intention not to seek a second term. They did not have any idea how to implement “open, transparent and merit-based” and that is what we’re seeing now.

  7. A few reactions, from another admittedly biased observer.

    1) Lets distinguish between developing country executive directors at the Bank board all backing one candidate and one of the candidate withdrawing. One is compatible with the concept of a merit-based, fair, and transparent process. The other is not. Those EDs should assess based on merit, and if they can agree jointly which of the three canidates has the most merit then this is probably best. Asking Ocampo to withdraw is not the same. The African chairs and the Latin American ones must forgo regional preference and vote based on who really is the best for the job.

    2) It is entirely possible (though highly improbable) that some of the executive directors from developing countries might think that Dr. Kim is the most meritorious. His merits might be that with him in charge their government gets more money from US Aid for example. The problem is that the board did not set out an effective list of criteria by which to judge candidates.

    3) Failure of the developing countries to coalesce behind one candidate does NOT signal that they themselves are unable to judge candidates based on merit. It merely signals that they are not able to agree what merit means and who possesses the most of it. Given the different political and economic perspectives expressed by Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, it would not be at all surprising to see a split between executive directors who identify more with a centre-left or heterdox economic position (for Ocampo) and those with a more centre-right or orthodox economic position (for Okonjo-Iweala).

    4) Given the above – there is no reason for this statement “for any of the industrial nations to take them seriously enough to not vote with the US for Dr. Kim, or pay attention to any of their other demands for that matter.” Lets turn that around. Suppose the Communist Party in China said soemthing similar about US Congress (I think they do actually). Does that mean the Chinese should ignore all of the US’ concerns. No. Or what about politicians in a national context (lets say Angela Merkel for arguments sake), should she as Chancellor ignore the varying opinions of german voters because they can not coalesce behind a single German political party and give them 100% of the vote. No she must deal with multiple competiing and contradictory demands from interest groups and citizens. In a cooperative global system we need discussion and debate among all parties – including the diverse view of developing countries and the diverse view of civil society. Disagreement does not invalidate all concerns.

  8. It makes sense for one of the two presented by the BRICS and other developing countries to withdraw for the other. My bias is clear. I would rather that Antonio Jose Ocampo withdraws for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. He would go down in history as one who made a loud statement for the enthronement of merit in the selection of World Bank President. Sometimes history is made by individuals for the things they did or didn’t do. Nelson Mandela refused to go for a second term as President of South Africa. That was a loud statement against sit tight dictators in Africa. Over to Jose Anthonio Ocampo.

  9. Am I right in assuming that by your comments elections of the past have not been based solely on merit?

    What sorts of credentials do you imagine the best candidate to have?

  10. I agree. BRICs and developing countries need to close lines around the candidate with the most merit. The precedent we are trying to leave here is that, for the first time in history, the election would not be based on a country or region of origin but by merit. It would be a contradiction from the developing world if they are not able to get their act together.

  11. Since I am clearly in favor of Ngozi I will not present myself as unbiased but, that said, both she and Jose Antonio Ocampo, carry now the unsearched for responsibility of not splitting the non US votes… and I do believe that the best chances of achieving the desired result, lies with Ocampo withdrawing.

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