3 week application period – are you kidding?

So, the blog is back, now that the World Bank board has officially launched a selection process for the next World Bank President. A task this big takes a bit of time, right? Not according to the Bank’s board who leave a little over three weeks for accepting nominations. Three weeks! When we’re selecting interns, we leave at least a month, normally 6 weeks to give good candidates the chance to think about it and submit a decent application. But apparently selecting the head of one of the world’s most powerful International Financial Institutions is a less rigorous process…

It’s already clear that the US is trying to stitch up a second term for the US-backed incumbent, Jim Kim. Do we really need to by emphasise that in 2016 it’s not acceptable for the US to choose who gets to be the head of the World Bank – an institution that only operates in developing countries?

What should the correct selection process look like? This is what I wrote last time round:

“If the Board is serious about making the process truly transparent and merit-based, here are the bare minimum things that should happen:

  • Public interviews. It will simply not be credible if the Board selects a candidate behind closed doors with no one else able to see how the candidates stood up to questioning.
  • Manifestos for candidates. Every candidate should be required to set out what he or she think the main challenges facing the Bank are and how they would deal with them as President.
  • Public debates. Candidates should submit themselves for questioning to a variety of forums, including public debates.
  • Transparent voting. All countries should vote individually, not through their constituencies, and should announce who they are voting for and why.

Of course, none of this would prevent the backroom deals that the US will use to ensure its candidate gets in, but at least everyone would be able to judge who the best candidate really is, and learn a lot more about what they stand for. None of these are difficult to organise, and all of them take place routinely at national level for senior public servants.  Why not for the World Bank?”

These seem to me to still be extremely reasonable demands (set out in much more detail in this paper on selecting the IMF boss.)  The first demand we should all be making is a significant extension to the application process: 3 months (or more) would be much more appropriate than 3 weeks.

2 thoughts on “3 week application period – are you kidding?

  1. I’d enhance this open, transparent and merit-based process in two ways: strike a ‘review and search’ committee against a more specific framing of the criteria laid down in 2011; and, have it supported by an executive search firm, who would ferret out other qualified candidates, and who would keep the committee honest by helping them match what they’ve said they’re looking for, and what they’re discussing about the candidates. Such an approach would also make sure that both the short list and the decision pass muster, or at least don’t get angrily laughed at.

  2. Is it not clear that this is being done out of fear that Trump could be elected president (even if that would present a splendid occasion to break the toxic tradition)? It demonstrates at least two things: 1) there is no expectation that the US grip on the presidency will be shaken anytime soon; and 2) there are no rules – they’ll adjust them however they need to in order to perpetuate the status quo.

    But really, could Trump find someone more outrageous than Wolfowitz to appoint? Well, maybe yes … but it would be entertaining.

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