Ideas to Action:

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The World Bank’s Board committed itself in April 2011 to choosing its next president through an "an open, structured, deliberate process.”   Currently there are nearly unanimous calls for the selection among the existing three nominees to be based on an “open, transparent, competitive and merit-based” process.  Unfortunately the “smart money” in the world’s capitals still believes that the selection among the three nominees:  Jim Yong Kim, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Jose Antonio Ocampo, will be driven exclusively by power politics.

Okonjo-Iweala was interviewed by the bank’s board on Monday; Ocampo yesterday; today is Kim’s turn.  Some have also been open and talked to the public as two of the candidates, Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, explained their visions for the World Bank and responded to questions from development experts and the media this week, at events organized by CGD and The Washington Post.  Kim was also invited but did not accept. Though the Bank has not announced what will happen next, it’s widely expected that there will be two-days of closed-door deliberations, probably including a straw vote Friday, to see if a majority—that is, a majority of the voting shares, the distribution of which is tilted in favor of the United States and its close allies—agree on a candidate. A final decision and announcement is expected on Monday.

Practically everybody involved in the process has pledged support for an “open, transparent, competitive and merit-based” selection process. A minimum criteria for such a process is that each Executive Director of the World Bank Board, before the anticipated vote on April 16th,  make public how they made their selection.  Each ED should reveal their scorecard of criteria, weights, and rankings that justifies their selection.

All of us make choices between alternatives that have to be compared on a number of dimensions:  choosing a car (mileage versus comfort), a house (size versus commute), a job (pay versus interest).  A common way for groups to make choices is to specify criteria (what is the basis for the selection), relative importance across criteria (the weights on each criteria), and ranking of each alternative on each criteria.

Only with criteria, importance and ranking specified can a group decision be debated and justified and legitimated in an open and transparent manner.  Without this there can be no “transparency” as people really make, say, procurement decisions based on one criteria (like power politics or ethnicity or under the table payments) but provide some vague rhetoric and pretend this choice is based on another criteria (like merit).  Efforts to create accountability and ferret out corruption in public decision making (including World Bank procurement procedures) hinge on forcing decision making into the light and making criteria, importance, rankings explicit.

A scorecard does not limit the discussion or pre-judge outcomes as any number of criteria and importance could be proposed, it is just a structure for open and transparent debate.

There are many possible ways to imagine a scorecard, let me just show two as examples.

Purposes. The World Bank is governed by an Articles of Agreement that states very clearly as Article I the purposes of the IBRD and says: “The Bank shall be guided in all its decisions by the purposes set forth above.”  One scorecard would be “Which of the nominees, based on their training, experience, and capabilities, is best placed to pursue the legally agreed purposes of the organization?”

Qualifications of the candidates. Another set of criteria could be based on the qualifications of the nominees.  Even before any nominations three prominent former Chief Economists (a position that is a direct adviser to the World Bank President), Joseph Stiglitz (American), Nicholas Stern (British), and François Bourguignon (French) proposed criteria in the Financial Times.

There are many other legitimate criteria and they should be openly proposed and debated.

A large number of people, including media (Financial Times, The Economist, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal) and prominent development actors as individuals (Joseph Stiglitz, Jagdish Bhagwati) and groups of people (letters from 39 retired senior Bank managers endorsing Ngozi, 100 economists supporting Ocampo) have shared their criteria and their proposed selection.  However, most political insiders believe that the choice be neither open, nor transparent, nor competitive, nor merit based.  As Moises Naim and Uri Dadush assert, Kim “needed only one vote, that of President Obama.”  If unchecked by the actions of the World Bank Board in how they handle this decision, this cynicism about the process reduces the legitimacy of any new President and hence the credibility and effectiveness of the organization.

The idealistic hope is that the World Bank Board, now having heard from all of the candidates, will sit down and articulate their criteria, the importance of each of those criteria, and their rankings of the nominees on those criteria.  The idealistic hope is that discussions and voting will be based on that and not, as the cynics believe, crude power politics.  The idealistic hope is that these meritocratic criteria can be made open and transparent for each Executive Director.

Show us your scorecards and show us the World Bank can be open and transparent.