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 →
We closed the poll on which issues at the Bank need the most reform. You can see it at the bottom of the page. Its worth noting that there was a fairly even spread of issues that people thought needed reform. But the top issues were: democracy and accountability at the Bank; the Bank’s involvement in climate finance; improvement of public health systems; duty to respect and protect human rights; and the development impact of extractive industries. Lets review some of these, with some conjecture on the candidate’s positions:
First democracy and accountability – the first half of which is not strictly in the power of the Bank President. That said, the President can use his bully pulpit to argue for and demand changes in the alignment of power among shareholders. For all his many faults, this is something Strauss-Kahn did during his tenure at the IMF. While Zoellick’s parting words tried to put the multilateral into the Bank, he did precious little during his term to up the democracy quotient. The second half of that reform demand – accountability – is another matter. The president could set down the law about making sure there is greater participation by affected communities in Bank projects, and could also strengthen the independent accountability mechanisms at the Bank. By a rough read, this is not something that seems to be in the experience of US-nominee Jim Yong Kim, while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as a Bank insider for decades is not seen as friendly to this agenda, while Jose Antonio Ocampo, as someone with a strong UN background, presumably takes inclusiveness more seriously. Continue reading →
The World Bank has attracted criticism across the spectrum of its operations. In this poll, we highlight a selection of the concerns campaigning groups have highlighted. Which area(s) do you feel are the ripest for reform by a new World Bank president? This is not intended to be a comprehensive agenda – suggest other important issues in the comment section at the bottom!