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The US had a chance to lead.  It abdicated that chance to play domestic politics and put forward a US nominee who is manifestly less qualified to be head of the World Bank than the alternative candidate nominated by African countries: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The World Bank is a full-service development institutions that provides loans and grants and development advice to promote development, which is the transformation of countries towards prosperous economies that support broad based improvements in material well-being, democratic polities that respect citizen rights and respond to citizen demands, and capable administrations that allow governments to carry out their core functions—law and order, education, macro-economic management, health, infrastructure, regulation, security.

Therefore an ideal candidate should have:

  • some experience in government and the process of policy-making (as the World Bank’s clients are all governments),
  • some acquaintance with economic policy and policy making—including the tough choices like allocation of resources across uses,
  • some knowledge of finance (it is, after all, a bank that makes income from lending money),
  • perhaps some management experience in a multilateral organization.
  • Exposure to the breadth of development issues.

Experience in Government. Ngozi has been the Minister of Finance of Nigeria, twice.  If one had to name a tough job in the world, I think that would be it.  She did it first from 2003 to 2006 and by all accounts handled a very tough situation—including tackling entrenched corruption—in an admirable way.   Jim (to be fair we’ll use first names for both) has no experience in government.  He has been engaged in development as an academic and through NGOs.

Advantage Ngozi.

Acquaintance with Economic Policy. Ngozi has had training in economic development from MIT.  Jim has been trained as doctor and anthropologist.  Ngozi has been a Minister of Finance making budget allocations and dealt with the entire array of economic policies to promote growth and prosperity.  Jim has worked exclusively on health issues (rightly, as he is a physician) and never been in position of responsibility about economic policy.  Health was just one of many sectors for which Ngozi had to allocate budgets and promote performance.

Advantage Ngozi.

Knowledge of Finance. Ngozi has been a Minister of Finance as such, among other things, she led the Paris Club negotiations that led to billions of dollars debt relief for Nigeria.  Jim has no demonstrable experience in finance, banking, the private sector.

Advantage Ngozi.

Management Experience. From 2007 to 2011 Ngozi was a Managing Director of the World Bank.  She has therefore in-depth experience running a large and complex multi-lateral organization.  Jim from 2004 to 2006 was director of WHO’s HIV/AIDS department and so has some experience in a multilateral organization.  Jim has also for two years been president of an American university.  But while Ngozi was near the top of a large organization dealing with all development issues Jim was responsible for one disease in an organization that does only health.

Advantage Ngozi.

Breadth of exposure. There is a massive difference between doing development work and doing charity work to mitigate the consequences of the lack of development.  Ngozi has done development work in many settings and in many positions both in Nigeria and within the World Bank.  Jim deserves praise for having devoted his time, attention and expertise in medicine to improve the health care for people in the developing world—which is certainly one component of development—but his development experience is limited to one sector.

Advantage Ngozi.

Passport. Jim holds an American passport.  Ngozi is a Nigerian woman.

Advantage Jim.

In this day and age, is that still really all it takes?