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One of the pressing questions for Jim Kim in the years ahead as the World Bank’s new president is what to do as many countries graduate out of IDA, the bank’s fund for grants and concessional loans to the poorest countries. To generate ideas and possible directions for IDA’s business model, CGD has convened a Future of IDA Working Group. The group’s final report with recommendations is due out in early summer, in time for ample discussion prior to the IDA 16 Mid-Term Review this fall.
It matters a lot who runs the World Bank and it matters how the president is selected. So it’s heartening to see the reforms to the World Bank leadership selection process making a difference this time. Multiple candidates have been nominated. Three will be interviewed by the bank’s executive board next week. For the first time since the bank was created in 1944 there is competition. The process is also more open than ever before.
Some excellent candidates to head the World Bank and the IMF never get nominated because they lack the support of their own country—usually because the party they are affiliated with is not in power at the critical moment. Consider, for example, Ernesto Zedillo, a former president of Mexico who now heads the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
The Obama Administration, whether by design or by accident, has opened the door for the first time in the World Bank’s history to the possibility of a real contest over the merits of its nominee to take the helm there compared to a nominee from the developing world. All three candidates have experience working on development (and that is a refreshing change from the tradition of financiers and political heavyweights at the helm). But their strengths are different. In the case of Kim, the U.S.
The next World Bank president will need the legitimacy and wide support that only an open and merit-based selection process can ensure. This is now commonly agreed. The best way to ensure legitimacy is to have more than one serious candidate. The Obama administration is sure to nominate a strong candidate. Obama cannot be seen to be relinquishing the right of the United States to name an American, especially in this election year. But the U.S. has signaled its willingness to participate in an open and competitive and process. And the Bank’s board has called for nominations from all member states, which the board says it will then narrow to a short list of three.
There was a lot of justified hand-wringing and tough talk too in the media and in think tank and NGO-land about the unseemly use by Europe of its unwarranted voting weight at the IMF to push the election of Christine Lagarde. The appointment this week of Zhu Min, a former deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, as the one of two IMF
This commentary also appeared on The Huffington Post and Global Post
Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion.
But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti's future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti's people.