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Leaders create news as they stake out new territory, and they also create turbulence that can be harnessed by institutional reformers when conditions are right. The conditions were undoubtedly right at the World Bank in 1992.
"The World Bank," a colleague once told me, "is less than the sum of its parts." And other colleagues always grinned and agreed when I cited him during my seventeen years at the Bank. They all immediately recognized what no one officially admits: the Bank underperforms because it constantly degrades its most precious resources -- the energy, skills and creativity of the people who work there.
Yesterday Robert Zoellick was elected by unanimous vote by the Board of the World Bank to become its next president. He now assumes The Hardest Job in the World, as we called it in a 2005 CGD report to the then-incoming president, Paul Wolfowitz. Mr. Zoellick is an avid reader -- and absorbs ideas and issues like a sponge. This bodes well for the Bank and for Bank staff. Informal meetings he has had with officials around the world, activists, and Bank watchers in Washington's leading think tanks indicate Mr.
Our survey on the selection of the new World Bank president solicits views on replacement of the current selection process by one that is “open, competitive and merit-based, without regard to nationality.” These principles reflect the view expressed in an open letter signed by more than 330 people from many development-related organizations--including both of us.