There has been endless speculation in the media, fueled by CSO activism bordering on fantasy and hissy-fits, about names rumored and leaked to be in the running to replace Robert Zoellick on July 1.
Now is the time to tell the owners of the Bank, who will nominate candidates, and the Board, who will choose from among the three they shortlist, what profile the next World Bank president should have, beyond the generic criteria that the Development Committee endorsed.
Interest in managing the Bank, and a track record of success at managing, would be a start. This would show commitment to implementing a new vision of the role of the Bank–and Bank Group–in the changing world of inclusive and sustainable globalization. I use that term, a Zoellick invention, because that includes fighting poverty, protecting the environment, and promoting economic and social justice. Acting consistently with recent WDRs and managing for results in these areas would be the best way to rebuild the Bank’s brand for focusing on results.
The Bank’s external stakeholders may want to think about whether the Bank’s matrix structure serves our clients as well as it could. IEG has recently been very critical of how it works, including on how it brings out the best in staff (or not) and whether managerial accountability for quality, efficiency and results is clear.
For several years, trust funds have been the safety valve on a “flat budget”. This has led to an unseemly rush to donor capitals to fund even ‘core’ Bank knowledge and supervision work. Donors are stressed financially, but want to use this backdoor influence to shape the Bank’s agenda. This naturally worries Board members who aren’t donors about the dilution of their influence. The fragmentation of donor support has led to probing questions about the value trust funds are achieving, and whether the Bank would take all this on were their ‘free’ money not available.
It would be better for stakeholders interested in the future of the Bank, and where it goes in the next five years, to debate these issues, in the context of the vision the Bank’s owners have for its future.
On March 23, we’ll know who the contenders are, and it would be good to have some agreement on what yardsticks will be used to measure them. That would do more for a transparent and merit-based selection than the unrealistic cheerleading and character assassination that characterizes much of what is in the press, and on the Web, so far.