About the World Bank Presidency

About the World Bank Presidency

This year the World Bank will select a new president. As I am not very much informed about this, I would like to post a few articles from across the internet on this topic. I will keep this post updated as I find the time to do so.

The president of the World Bank is generally a citizen of the United States. The question of how to find the most suitable leader for the institution, regardless of nationality, is an important one. Writing in the Washington Post, Mohamed A. El-Eria says:

Almost a year ago, when the then-head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, was forced to resign suddenly, European leaders showed no shame in preempting an open, merit-based system to replace him. Their audacity was so blatant, and their willingness to ignore international attitudes so appalling, that even U.S. officials expressed discomfort and reservations, both in public and in private, with the process.

He finds support from Arvind Subramanian and Devesh Kapur who write in Project Syndicate:

… the United States and Europe, despite their economic travails, retain a monopoly on the leadership of the Bank and the IMF, respectively.

There is grudging agreement that this system should change. But the forces perpetuating the status quo – European and American resistance to change and emerging-market countries’ passivity – remain powerful, as the choice last year of Christine Lagarde to lead the IMF illustrated. Election-year politics in the US will strengthen these forces further, with President Barack Obama’s administration unlikely to relinquish a symbol of global power, which would invite opponents’ charges of weak leadership.

There is a great disagreement on the current methodology for obtaining the president of the World Bank. As over the years the roles of the developing countries in the global economy have been improving, there is an urgency for a new look into the selection procedure. Subramanian and Kapur have the following recommendations:

… the Bank requires a new selection process that will enable it to choose the most qualified person, regardless of nationality. The more difficult part is to identify the qualifications needed to run the Bank at a time when its role must be adapted to far-reaching global changes.

… [T]he World Bank’s next president will have to be someone whose primary task is to initiate and sustain change while commanding support and legitimacy across the Bank’s membership. He or she will also require a demonstrated capacity for political leadership and a core conviction that the Bank needs a new vision and path forward.

A World Bank for A New World, Jeffrey Sachs, Project Syndicate.

Jeffrey Sachs submits his candidacy via the Washington Post:

The World Bank is potentially far more decisive than a bank. At its best, the bank serves as a powerhouse of ideas and a meeting ground for key actors who together can solve daunting problems of poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation. The World Bank should create a truly international meeting of the minds (a point underscored by the fact that its highly esteemed lead economist is from China).

The World Bank presidency should not be a training ground in development. Its leader should come to office understanding the realities of flooded villages, drought-ridden farms, desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children, and teenage girls unable to pay high school tuition. More than knowing these realities, and caring to end them, the bank president should understand their causes and interconnected solutions.

Via FTAlphaville:

President Obama is considering former economic adviser Lawrence Summers and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the position after Zoellick’s term ends and that I think is a serious mistake cause none of these individuals is really equipped in dealing with such issues and none of them has the track record.

Some questions:

Why does the World Bank matter to us?

Why should we care for a more capable leadership in the World Bank?

Why should the World Bank president have a great understanding of what goes on underground in Tanzania, Malawi or Cambodia?

Update I: Raila Odinga, Prime Minister of Kenya, endorses Prof. Sachs:

On behalf of the Government of Kenya and that of myself, it is my esteemed pleasure, honour and privilege to nominate Professor Jeffrey David Sachs for appointment to the position of President of the World Bank. Professor Sachs is one of the world’s leading global economic development experts who has advanced innovative solutions on poverty alleviation, health, environmental sustainability and aid policy that are relevant and proven to have worked in a number of developing economies… I have known Professor Sachs for more than 2 decades, and I am certain that my views represent not only myself but also hundreds of African leaders, scientists, private sector executives, development practitioners and hundreds of communities in Africa.

Born and raised in Mwanza, Bihemo spent most of his childhood in rural Tanzania before going to Arusha and Kibaha for his secondary education. He is currently in his final year pursuing a BSc. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany. Bihemo will blog with Vijana FM about solar energy for sustainable economic development in rural areas, education for a modern society, and computer science. He believes an idea in mind is unreal. To make it real, we must communicate it and argue for it convincingly. If we can achieve this, Bihemo believes, our idea becomes real. Let’s give life to our ideas. Let’s blog and encourage discussions on issues relevant to us.


  1. ak 6 years ago

    Lots of interesting questions raised here. The way I see it, as long as this position requires *one* person, the decisions cannot be perfect for everyone. But if it is indeed the perfect approach to “development” that the WB seeks, then perhaps it is worth having a system of leadership that is a reflection of everyone who the WB is for. The Council for the European Union and the Chairmanship of the African Union are both examples of how to devise one system to represent – or at least to understand – many.

  2. Rebel cause 6 years ago

    These institutions that are supposedly for the world should not be mistaken. On paper they are for the world, but in leadership they are tied to certain agendas. This does not just apply to the World Bank, but to the IMF, the United Nations, and the Int’l Court of Justice.

    I chose not to believe this until last year, when it became obvious that Syria’s fate does not lie in any one of these international bodies, but instead in its own people’s hands.

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