New World Bank President: From ‘Who’ and ‘How’ to ‘for What’!

With the formal process of selection of a new World Bank President kick-starting in a week’s time, it’s imperative to have a view beyond this selection, now that the dust of Jim Kim’s sudden resignation has settled down.

That the process of this selection should be transparent and inclusive goes unsaid. Further, in a statement issued earlier this month, the Bank’s Board of Directors “affirmed its commitment to an open, merit-based and transparent selection process”, except that in the past such commitments met a weak knee when faced with the dictates of United States in the appointment of the previous presidents. Though the clarion call has been given earlier also, it is high time that people beyond the borders of US are considered, particularly that from the global south, and a woman, who has been at the receiving end (both literally as well as figuratively) of Bank’s lending over the past seven decades.

However, if the new president – whether from global south or north, whether selected through an open process or not– is just to fill-in the gap and continues the existing policies and priorities of the Bank as in the previous years well, nothing changes much. In fact, a president from global south will only be used to legitimise what the Bank does!

Here’s the crux of the story known to many – as a lender, the Bank extends loans and technical assistance for economic, institutional or other policy reforms – not always for specific projects – in countries they operate. This influences the public spending of that country and, as always observed globally, paves way for greater private sector involvement and management of State-owned enterprises. In fact, privatization of public utilities has been Bank’s prime agenda since the past many decades. Continue reading

Aaaand we’re back! Kim announces surprise departure, kicking off a sooner than expected leadership challenge

Jim Yong Kim announced on 7 January he is leaving the World Bank for the private sector. Credit: World Bank.

World Bank Group (WBG) President Jim Yong Kim announced his resignation on Monday, 7 January, to the apparent surprise of the World Bank’s Board of Directors and senior staff.

In a letter to staff, Kim indicated that his departure was “unexpected”, and that he would be joining a private investment firm, stating that “this is the path through which I will be able to make the largest impact on major global issues like climate change and the infrastructure deficit in emerging markets.” On 9 January, it was announced that Kim will join Global Infrastructure Partners as a Vice Chairman and Partner.

Since Kim’s shock announcement, questions have swirled about why he chose to depart with more than three years remaining on his second term – he was re-appointed in September 2016 – and indeed whether his new role represents a potential conflict of interest, given the Bank’s aggressive promotion of mobilising private finance for infrastructure projects under his leadership. Continue reading

Ocampo at the CGD public debate

In his turn at the presentations organised at CGD, José Antonio Ocampo expressed his view on the Bank, being quite critical of the issues in which, according to him, the institution has not performed well, like country ownership and cooperation with other international organisations. He also expressed the need to change the culture of the Bank in order for it to become a clients-based organisation, and criticised the US for not increasing capital or allowing other countries to do so.

On country ownership he said: Continue reading

Red flags at Ngozi’s CGD speech

Ngozi gave a speech and took part in a question and answer session at CGD recently. She was her usual effusive and passionate self, although often a little vague when it came to policy positions. The mainstream press has picked up on her campaign motifs: she put a large emphasis on job creation (although her actual record on job creation is called into question here), and on the Bank delivering finance/results/technical assistance faster. The Washington Post covers some more things here, including her insistence that US capital contriutions will not be threatened by a non-US candidate.

On some issues she seemed to demand significant changes at the Bank. She said the Bank should look at the African Development Bank for lessons on selecting leaders, seemingly endorsing double-majority voting, and said there needs to be a serious conversation about increasing capital contributions and voting shares for MICs.

There were however some other interesting points I think should be brought to light. These seem to indicate that on many issues she is sticking to already well-developed Bank approaches, and reaffirm her status as the ‘establishment choice’. Reformers and revolutionaries beware. On other issues she raised various red flags for campaigners: Continue reading

“Why Jim Yong Kim won’t change the World Bank”

Another thoughtful blog from Felix Salmon on why no one should expect Dr. Kim to change much in the World Bank.

“.. the World Bank won’t move far in that direction so long as its president is imposed by fiat of the US. In order to work effectively at the sub-national and international level, the World Bank needs to be a genuinely international organization, run by and for the whole world, rather than being viewed as a means for the US to project “soft power” in Africa and elsewhere. “