Red flags at Ngozi’s CGD speech

Ngozi gave a speech and took part in a question and answer session at CGD recently. She was her usual effusive and passionate self, although often a little vague when it came to policy positions. The mainstream press has picked up on her campaign motifs: she put a large emphasis on job creation (although her actual record on job creation is called into question here), and on the Bank delivering finance/results/technical assistance faster. The Washington Post covers some more things here, including her insistence that US capital contriutions will not be threatened by a non-US candidate.

On some issues she seemed to demand significant changes at the Bank. She said the Bank should look at the African Development Bank for lessons on selecting leaders, seemingly endorsing double-majority voting, and said there needs to be a serious conversation about increasing capital contributions and voting shares for MICs.

There were however some other interesting points I think should be brought to light. These seem to indicate that on many issues she is sticking to already well-developed Bank approaches, and reaffirm her status as the ‘establishment choice’. Reformers and revolutionaries beware. On other issues she raised various red flags for campaigners:

– A reoccuring theme was infrastructure, public-private partnerships and ‘partnership’ between the Bank and other agencies. This is firmly in line with the recent G20/Bank push for large-scale, ‘transformational’ infrastructure projects, an approach that raises serious issues over bloated costs and development impact.

– Despite saying there is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to development, when discussing creating the right conditions for employment creation she touted the Doing Business indicators, a set of one-size fits all free-market policies that have provoked outrage amongst civil society groups and emerging economies.

– When asked about the Bank’s stalled energy strategy she openly stated that the Bank should continue to finance coal-power in MICs if there were no ‘affordable alternatives’. The Bank’s record on lending to polluting industries is exemplary, and campaigners will worry that Ngozi’s lack of diplomacy when offering her stance betrays a serious misunderstanding of and meagre commitment to environmental issues.

– On climate finance she stated that the Bank needs more capital, and quickly. The Bank has established itself as developed countries favourite fund when it comes to choosing where to put their climate finance commiments, with questionable results, and accusations of undermining the UNFCCC.

– On safeguards she was asked what her priorities would be with the upcoming safegurds review, and whether she could comment on the fact that Bank safeguards are weak compared to other agencies that have updated theirs more recently. She said that it was not a question of ‘weakness’, but speed. The main problem was that safeguards are an impediment to getting projects on track. There was no mention of ensuring safeguards actually stopping adverse social and environmental impacts. She then said that the Bank should work on building and ‘blessing’ countries own safeguards, so these could be used instead, seemingly endorsing the Bank’s new PforR instrument, which is not without controversy.

A final word should be said about her comment on the Nigerian fuel subsidy removal. She said that a positive aspect was that CSOs demanded accountability, a view that should be welcomed. But then she said that she sat down with Occupy Nigeria for four hours, and by the end they were asking to have their picture taken with her, and this should “tell you all you need to know”. She obviously hasn’t read this piece from Occupy Nigeria activist Ikhide Ikheloa!

14 thoughts on “Red flags at Ngozi’s CGD speech

  1. Peter you will need to live in Nigeria for 2 years at least for you to understand the people, their culture and choices. This woman reduced Nigeria’s debt in 2005-2006 when she was the Minister of Finance by billions of dollars and when she left government, she left behing a whopping $37BN approx in foreign reserves. Coming back in 2011, that reserv e has whittled down to $3BN and of course the debt has qradrappled as well.

    Regardless of what she may want to do, there are some things that take time and she has just been re-appointed as Minister in 2011.

  2. Eradication of Corruption in Nigeria is not part of her job description. Besides being a Minister in Nigeria does not give one PRESIDENTIAL powers.

  3. Ask her as well; if she were so infrastructural development conscious, how was it that in her Nigerian budget of 2012, she provided a mere 27% of the country’s GDP for capital expenditure (out of which politicians will steal about 50%) with a whopping 73% for recurrent expenditure for a mere 3% of Nigerian population? In other words, she preferred putting much more money in politicians’ pockets at the expense of the development of the nation for the good of Nigerian populace. In fact, her statement does not reflect her true approach to development as seen in her handling of Nigerian economy. She is elitist, therefore her programmes are tailored to benefit the elites with more room for corruption to thrive in Nigeria.

  4. If Ngozi is so competent and most suited for the World Bank top job, can you explain why she has not used her expertise to bring about reforms in her Ministry of Finance in Nigeria, in a way that corruption could be curbed in every institution of Nigerian government?

  5. It seems you don’t understand how the federation is structured! She has in her capacity as the finance bring the recurrent expenditure downward!

    The Nigeria Senate of 109 people and 360 member of the House of Reps put their stamps of approval on that budget.


  7. I really quite like her quote at the end of her speech: ‘Innovation takes non-standard people to look into non-standard things. It starts with you and me.’

  8. As Nigeria’s minister of Finance and coordinating minister for economy , Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala needs to explain why corruption, poverty and inequality are on the increase in her country . She needs to explain why she approved in 2012 budget a whopping sum of 150billion naira ($949 million US ) as the annual salaries and allowances of just 469 federal legislators ( each of whom earn far more than the US president ) while the entire Nigeria police force of 360,000 men is allocated 307billion naira ( $1.94billion US) for the same period.

  9. I was there too, and came away with the same impressions as Tom Fry, even though I disagree with his statement on the Bank and climate finance. Like it or not, the Bank’s engagement on carbon finance and on the platform for CIFs has allowed experimentation and learning, and, going way back, the set-up of the GEF in 1991. And let’s not forget she’s the insider.

  10. Dr Okonjo Iweala speech and the interview last few days shows her readiness to become the first woman president of world bank if the selection process would be based on merit and knowledge and experience. She has served nearly in all the regions of the world. I think the world expect the selection process to be judicious not to be based on gender or international politys but strickly on merit. The US share holders of the world bank which control more than half of the total funds and the US congress know what is astake to nominate some one with little knowledge and experience to one of the world leading financial institution president. Sentiment apart, any reasonable human being understood the position of the 3 shortlisted candidate; Kim. Ocampo,Ngozi. All the stakeholder should know the world is becoming more and more a global village .merit, knowledge and experience should be the main focus to nominte the next world bank president. Dr Okonjo Iweala has contributed immensely to the economic transformation of the world and the country shes currently serving as finance and planning minister. Her nomination as the next world bank president would foster great unity in the international financial communities where gender not consider a barrier in this 21st century.

  11. You may continue your smear campaign. That would not reduce the import of that speech. Her speech was right on point.

    Kim has not emerge from his cocoon!

    I think Kim is using the African proverb that says that when a man keeps quiet, he is seen to be wise.

  12. I think you are really trying to see red flags where there are none. I saw the same session and came away with quite a different take on it. I think her answeres are correct, may be not to th eliking of NGOs, but that is a plus in my book. This is not an NGOs bank and should never be.

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