Selection Criteria – déjà vu all over again

The World Bank’s board published its timeline and criteria for selection last week and it’s a cut and paste from the last time there was a proper selection process in 2012 (we won’t count 2016 as there was no pretense that anyone other than the incumbent should apply).

The main critique I made of the process in 2012 still stands now:

But here’s the most damning point.  The list of qualifications for the job does not mention the need to know anything about developing countries, or anything about poverty reduction.

The obvious reason for this is that the US has a track record of finding it difficult to rustle up candidates who have this kind of experience – in this regard Jim Kim was a rare exception, even if his experience was very thin on other elements of the job description.

Prior to Kim, we had:

  • Bob Zoellick (2007-12): US government trade rep, Goldman Sachs banker etc. Development experience: very limited
  • Paul Wolfowitz (2005-7): US government official, academic, neo-con etc. Development experience: very limited
  • James Wolfensohn (1995-2005): Investment banker, cello player etc. Development experience: extremely limited
  • Etc etc

Here’s a list of past presidents. Some might say my assessment is a little generous (let me know if you think I’ve got any of the above wrong) but the main point is that a key factor is missing from the person specification. In practice however, if the US proposes a candidate that knows little about international development, as it has done so often in the past, this should greatly weaken their ability to force their candidate through. This could then end up being the biggest gift to those who are determined to ending the American monopoly on the post.


2 thoughts on “Selection Criteria – déjà vu all over again

  1. I agree – wouldn’t it be so much easier if the Bank were to look for a candidate from a developing country!

  2. I think it is fair to say that there are two main bits of experience needed for running a development bank – development experience and banking experience. The US had traditionally nominated candidates with the latter and not the former. Zoellick, for example, worked on US financial institution policy and at Fannie Mae and as an advisor at Goldman Sachs. That isn’t irrelevant experience.

    Finding someone who combines both is hard. It is especially hard for a US citizen, unless they worked at the World Bank itself. Developing country candidates at least understand development challenges and probably worked on/with them in their past experience.

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