Managing the World Bank Group ‘successfully’

The Board’s Executive Directors have left their second selection criterion dangerously inadequate. 

  • “experience of managing large organizations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector”

I would have thought “successfully managing” is what the world expects. Maybe that goes without saying, even if the Board’s recent history on selecting World Bank presidents from available nominees is uneven.

Let’s consider some markers for “successfully”.

Let’s see what results were achieved during the candidate’s tenure, and what can be attributed to him or her.  A lot of résumé padding involves taking credit for things others do and would have done anyway, activities done by teams of staff with external partners they know. Examples I can think of are NAFTA2 (aka USMCA/CUSMA), IDA replenishments, ‘clean’ audits. Not eligible would be Brexit, the SDGs, and the Paris Accord (a collective success for negotiations, and a collective ‘incomplete’ for early implementation).

Talent management is what managers primarily do. What is the candidate’s experience at attracting and retaining senior staff? Have non-performers been exited for cause, and have any left because they felt the candidate managed poorly, to the organization’s detriment? Continue reading

Setting the bar for Dr Kim’s successor

Now that the initial puzzled excitement over Jim Yong Kim’s abrupt resignation and short notice has abated, and the fun speculating over replacements has passed, the tough work of selecting a suitable successor must begin.

Civil society and journalists can gossip about why and why now, and question whether his rumored $20mn signing bonus is appropriate for a man without any skills or experience in infrastructure, investment, or private equity. Fine, but that’s not as important as finding someone excellent to head up the Bank Group starting this spring less than two years after he was given an undeserved second term. 

Governments, I hope, are looking at suitable candidates—women and men—for these challenging, anti-multilateralism times, and civil society is watching. So are World Bank Group staff.

But first things first: let’s flesh out the criteria that the Bank’s Board of Executive Directors have announced for a transparent, open, and merit-based appointment. Yes, we’ve heard that before, and as Lant Pritchett famously observed in 2017 when Dr Kim was reanointed, “this time is last time’s next time.” Will we be fooled and disappointed again? Continue reading

World Bank president: list of reforms African states should be demanding

I have written an article suggesting that even though the next President of the World Bank will be an American, the selection of the President offers an opportunity to reform World Bank governance and making the Bank more publicly accountable to all its member states and their citizens.

This can be done if African states offer the US and their European allies a deal. They will agree to support the US nominee for President in return for their agreement to implement the following package of reforms:

  • The President will be required to issue an annual public report evaluating how well the Bank is performing against some agreed benchmark; for example, the sustainable development goals. This report will be reviewed by a committee of representatives of the Bank’s stakeholders who will issue their own public report assessing the Bank’s performance against the same benchmark. The advisory council provided for in article 6 of the Bank’s articles of agreement could perform this role.
  • The World Bank’s existing independent accountability mechanisms will be strengthened so their findings become binding. These mechanisms investigate claims by communities and groups of individuals who allege that they have been harmed by the actions of the Bank in Bank-funded projects. The Bank, however, is not bound by the findings of these investigations and so may not take the remedial actions required to resolve the problem.

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World Bank Board to hold a straw poll Friday

Reuters is reporting that the Board of Executive Directors will hold a “straw poll” this Friday, ahead of the formal vote on the 16th. The usually well informed, Lesley Wroughton, writes “The board meets on Friday to conduct a straw poll to see if one candidate emerges as a clear favourite. It is expected to announce its choice on April 16, in time for the IMF and World Bank meetings of global finance leaders in Washington the same week.”

Promise-breaking at the World Bank, Part 3: Contenders

It is onto the terrain of unprecedented global financial malgovernance that Kim now strides. To be sure, on the way, he’s being tripped up a little by disgruntled neoliberals like Reuters columnist Felix Salmon, who concludes, correctly, “the US government in general, and the Geithner-Clinton axis in particular, doesn’t actually want any real change at the World Bank. Change can only come from a strong president who is strongly supported by Continue reading