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Views from the Center

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What WOULD It Take for the US and Europe to Give Up Control of World Bank and IMF Leadership?

This is a joint post with David Roodman.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle has unexpectedly forced the first leadership turnover at a Bretton Woods institution since the global financial crisis—the first leadership transition in what we might call the G-20 world. The tacit deal that has long put an American atop the World Bank and a European in charge of the IMF, rooted in the geopolitics of the 1940s, looks more archaic than ever. That’s why this time around, the calls have grown even louder to make the leadership selection process of the World Bank and IMF open, transparent, and meritocratic. Owen Barder suggests on his widely read blog that transparency and merit are key to maintain the reputation and relevancy of these international institutions, and Nancy Birdsall agrees that the decision needs to be based on merit, not nationality. The Financial Times and others news media say that it is time for everyone to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century with several emerging powers that must have a larger role in the Bank, the Fund and other multilateral organizations. One of us (Vij) has made this argument too, constructing a model of global governance that factors in GDP and population as of 2011, not 1941.

Currency Wars Are a Development Problem and the G-20 Has a Major Role to Play in the Solution

Last weekend’s communiqué from the G-20 finance ministers is a first step to bridge the divide in the ongoing currency wars. I find both hope and disappointment in the Communiqué. It is very positive that the G-20 ministers have called for the IMF to help identify countries with policies leading to large and unsustainable imbalances. This is a step in the right direction, although no specific quantitative indicators have yet been advanced.

IMF Gold Sales Should Fund Low-Interest Loans for Poor Countries

On April 29, U.S. House of Representatives Democrat, Rep. Barney Frank, said that he supports authorization by the U.S. Congress of gold sales by the International Monetary Fund, on the condition that $4 billion of the proceeds go to poor countries. He also said that the U.S. Treasury backs his position. This is all good news regarding the IMF’s sale of 1/8th of its gold reserves, approximately 403 tons.

At The G-20 Summit, Nothing for Africa

Five years after Africa was centerstage at a meeting of the G7 heads of state in Gleneagles, it has all but vanished from the priorities of policymakers from the rich and emerging economies. At the G20 Summit in London this week, heads of state will debate new resources for the IMF, in the range of $250 billion. But these resources will likely be deposited in the New Arrangements to Borrow (NAB) facility, which will be far too expensive and out of reach of most African countries.

Spain, the G-20, and the Need for Reform of Global Governance Systems

The Spanish press reports that Spain's prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has been officially invited to the G-20 summit in London in April as well as the preparatory meeting in Berlin. Spain was invited by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (El Mundo (Spain)/Factiva). The Spanish government has campaigned vigorously to be included in the G-20, despite the fact the European Union is already represented.