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!