Sympathy for the Devil

A personal reflection on the World Bank, Jim Kim, and David Malpass

As a U.S. citizen and a global justice activist, I’ve always opposed the US’s prerogative to nominate the World Bank president. And I certainly never expected to like any U.S. candidate for the World Bank presidency. In 2012, then, I was startled when Barack Obama nominated Jim Kim.

I had met Kim back in 1995 at a protest against the IMF and World Bank in Washington, DC. It was no more than a handshake, but I was thrilled to meet the lead editor of Dying for Growth, a remarkable compendium of articles about the disastrous impact of IMF/WB policies on health around the world. It was one of the pillars of the multi-sectoral work I did with the 50 Years Is Enough U.S. Network of IMF/WB critics.

He had left Partners in Health well before his nomination and gone on to other, less movement-friendly positions, such as the presidency of Dartmouth College. But still, he was Jim Kim; he at least had been “one of us.” What was I, a dedicated campaigner against the U.S. monopoly on the WB presidency, to do?

I didn’t support the U.S. nomination of course, but I wasn’t so passionate in opposing it as I might otherwise have been. Less sentimental colleagues led the charge. But now that Kim has left, we know that he will be remembered primarily for turning the Bank into an even bigger booster of private-sector domination of development than it already was. So much so that he decided to bail on the job when Trump could nominate his replacement, apparently to get the obscene payoffs that await investment bankers with insider experience. Not exactly what I had been hoping for. Continue reading

What does Javanka mean for the World Bank?

Politico has the biggest sensation of the week when it reported on Monday about Ivanka’s prospects for the World Bank. In the topsy turvy world of today’s politics its headline missed the mark. Rather than leading with “Ivanka Trump not under consideration for World Bank chief” the headline should have been:

“Ivanka is overseeing the internal search for a nominee to lead the World Bank”

That is an amazing statement. The search for the World Bank president nominee by the US Administration is being headed by an unpaid aide with no background in economics, finance, or development! If I were in the Treasury I would not not be amused.

Javanka – as the combination of Jared and Ivanka is known – will have their hands full trying to figure out a nominee. Or will they? They could just pick a loyal friend or someone whom the Trumps owe a favour. That wouldn’t be too different than the processes to pick some of the past Presidents. But in today’s climate and with this US Administration that is less likely to a lifelong Republican stalwart and more likely to be someone who has been on the fringes of politics for most of their life. Continue reading

Obama to nominate Korean-born Jim Yong Kim for World Bank head

News just started coming in that President Barack Obama will nominate Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, a surprise choice coming on the day the deadline for nominations expires. Anonymous officials have leaked the information to the press ahead of Obama’s official announcement later today.

Kim is a global health expert who has been a Professor of Medicine and Social Medicine and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has extensive experience in improving health in developing countries and was Director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department from 2004 to 2006, when he oversaw all of the WHO’s work related to HIV/AIDS, focusing on initiatives to help developing countries scale up their treatment, prevention, and care programs, including the “3×5” campaign. US health activists seem to be quite excited with the news.

Meanwhile, Jeff Sachs tweeted:

Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB. I support him 100%. I thank all who supported me and know they’ll be very pleased with today’s news

Is Sachs going to pull out of the race?

With the Eurozone in a mess, Obama has the political space for a “radical” stand

Robert Zoellick, the only neo-con who survived the Bush era because he left in time , has just announced that he will step down from the top job in the World Bank, and not look for a new term in 1818 H street in Washington.

This move, already in the air given the ambition of the democrats not to leave a Republican-appointee in place for a second term at the World Bank, renews again the well known saga about the appointment of next Bank president: again an American politician or banker? Or for the first time ever since Bretton Woods in 1944 will a non-American citizen be allowed to head the institution?

Despite the whole debate and new commitment to a procedure for a transparent and merit-based selection process to find the best candidate for the top job of the IMF, the Europeans gave a bad example in 2011 by forcing through Madame Lagarde at a time of profound crisis in “old Europe”. Hence the need for European governments to be sure that the IMF will intervene in case of a show down of the Eurozone. This is quite understandable for a bunch of countries who are not able even to decide among themselves about how to help each other out of the crisis. Continue reading