With only about three hours to go before the close of nominations, it looks as if the flawed process is yielding but one candidate, the flawed Jim Yong Kim.
It’s not as if there’s great enthusiasm. Michael Clemens’s article in HuffingtonPost makes a strong case for breaking the US lock on the World Bank presidency. He notes that “Criticism of the Bank’s practice of putting citizenship ahead of merit in the selection of a president has been constant over the years,” as the US share of the Bank has fallen over the decades. This is not 1947.
More devastating was Devesh Kapur’s impassioned piece about the Bank’s rush to irrelevance. He flags Dr Kim’s advantage as the incumbent, ‘…to grant favors to win support: make loans that play to influential shareholders’ pet preferences, promise certain countries spots on the leadership roster, and stamp the Bank’s imprimatur on particular governments’ own domestic initiatives,” concluding that “Given the contents of Kim’s political toolkit, this match was never going to be played on a level field.” Kapur, who speaks with the authority of an ‘inside outsider’, having written the 50 years of the Bank’s history, alludes to how Dr Kim has actually managed the Bank since he took over:
His administration has been marked by authoritarianism and capriciousness, and he has forced out senior managers at unprecedented rates, sometimes requiring the Bank to reach quiet settlements with those affected. In four years, the president’s office has had five chiefs-of-staff, and several of the Bank’s senior women have left, hinting at a capricious leadership culture.
As the deadline for nominees approaches, now less than 48 hours away, how can one take stock of a flawed process to make a flawed candidate win?
The United States behaved furtively in the heat of August to push through a hasty process when many Executive Directors and senior shareholder officials were on leave. Caught out by the Staff Association and international media (the FT, the WSJ and CNNI’s Quest on Business), Treasury forged ahead with its plan to have Dr Kim reappointed before the Annual Meetings, 10 months ahead of the end of his term. Shortly after midnight the very day the three-week nomination period opened, Treasury nominated him by email.
Preempting other candidates with this show of force, Treasury then twisted a few more arms, with calls to their World Bank counterparties in various countries, including Pakistan. China, Germany, Japan and France fell in line, as did the UK’s new, green Secretary of State for DfID, with Canada acquiescing in a throwaway remark by its Finance Minister at a G20 presser.
It is no secret in Washington that Treasury Secretary Lew is no fan of Dr Kim, so despite the formal role his office plays in the nomination, all fingers point to the White House. Rewarding golfing buddies is not exactly President Obama’s style, but the fait accompli is nearly done. Continue reading
From Lima, Jim Kim has been gracious and forward-looking in his official statement after his appointment was announced.
Let’s hope that the owners and the World Bank’s board will not again waste five years trying to forget what they did wrong this time in the appointment process, so that progressive voices will not have to again sit out a fulsome and reasoned discussion of the candidates’ merits.
But let’s not spend the next two years whining about this process. Even a flawed process can have a good outcome.
None of us, including “A Bank Insider” know what happened in the executive session. None of us know for a fact that ‘only the African directors [spoke] for Ngozi’. Continue reading
NYU’s Bill Easterly, whose early alliance with CGD’s Lant Pritchett and other critics of Jim Kim has moderated over the past few weeks, has posted an important and carefully-reasoned contribution in defence of Dr Kim, and why Lant and his fellow travelers have it wrong.
Gregg Gonsalves, a long time AIDS activist and an Open Society Foundations Fellow, points out that traditional economists are backing the status quo, Continue reading