As Jim Kim enjoys his last day at the helm of what he obviously considers an organisation of fairly limited influence, it is a good time to do a bit of stock-taking of our own.
One could of course say many things about the doctor’s reign at the Bank (and I would in fact invite you, dear reader, to do so in the comments section below). Given his proud mention that he had ‘read up one side of Marx to the other’ and his near religious faith in the private sector’s miraculous metamorphosis into a benefic development actor, one hopes he was a more attentive medical student.
He at least seemed to be more engaged in whatever management consultancy books he used to assist him in convincing shareholders to agree a capital increase in the absence of any significant structural changes to the way the organisation works. In light of well-documented concerns within the Bank about the lack of focus on development outcomes and the pernicious impact of counter-productive staff incentives, this seems indeed quite an ‘accomplishment’. Perhaps he is right in asserting that it is the right time to depart and, literally, capitalise on the work he has done in making the world’s most important public bank ever more like one of the private sector firms he so admires.
While much has been written about the negative consequences of his, er… less-than-stellar, management acumen, his trend toward centralisation and exclusion of opposing views, to me the most significant element of his legacy is his energetic contribution in turning the Bank further away from its development mandate and into a poster-child for corporatized and financialised development (if one can use this word here). Continue reading
This morning we had official confirmation from the Bank that Jim Kim will not face any competitors in his bid for his tenure at the Bank to be renewed. With absolutely no intention to reduce this coronation to a farce-like procession, the Bank has indicated they will strictly adhere to the appropriate procedures.
These 2011 procedures are worth quoting:
World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim Photo © World Bank/Dominic Chavez
In response to the DC Communiqués calling for “open, merit-based and transparent selection of the World Bank President,” the Executive Directors have approved a process for selecting the World Bank President as an important part of the governance and accountability reforms.
Well, so much for that.
Kim will shortly be interviewed by the board and should that process determine that he is the best candidate in a field of one expect an October announcement confirming Kim’s re-appointment at the forthcoming annual meetings.
Tick-tock, tick-tock – that is the sound of time slipping away from the World Bank’s efforts to hold on to whatever remains of its legitimacy as a global development leader that lives by and values its own rhetoric about democratic governance, meritocracy and transparency.
As the minutes of 14 September 2016 slip inexorably away, so does the likelihood that any of the Bank’s shareholders will dare put forth a candidate to compete with the US’ anointed heir to the throne, as today is the deadline for nominations.
Perhaps one should not complain. Surely a three week nomination period beginning at the height of the summer holiday season is evidently plenty of time for careful and considered discussion and nomination process for the leader of ‘the world’s pre-eminent’ development institution. It is clear, after all, that the US found plenty of time to carefully consider the various options and to make the necessary calls. Who could possibly disagree – we mean, of those who count, excluding those pesky critics from misguided NGOs or spoiled staff crying over their lattes? Continue reading
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