from The Economist. jump here. reader comments also interesting.
The World Bank
Kim for president
Apr 16th 2012, 19:22 by J.P. | LONDON
IN THE event, the controversial and closely fought contest to become president of the World Bank ended in exactly the same way as all the earlier stitch-ups: the American candidate won. Jim Yong Kim, currently head of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, will take over from Robert Zoellick in July. But the contest has raised awkward questions both about the bank and Mr Kim himself which will not be laid to rest so smoothly.
The contest was unprecedented from the start, not least in that it was a contest. For the first time, America’s favourite was challenged by two serious contenders, both from emerging markets. They were Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the finance minister of Nigeria, and José Antonia Ocampo of Colombia, who pulled out late in the day. A group of American professors and development experts, led by William Easterly of New York University and Lant Pritchett of Harvard’s Kennedy School, criticised Mr Kim for having too narrow a field of expertise to run the world’s premier development institution. (The Economist also supported Mrs Okonjo-Iweala.) Members of the administration and Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University who was himself nominated for the World Bank job, supported Mr Kim vigorously.
Unfortunately, while the nominations were refreshingly open, the competition itself reverted to type, which means the job was decided behind closed doors. Dr Kim held no public discussions of his views and when a Washington think-tank, the Centre for Global Development, tried to hold televised question-and-answer sessions for all the candidates, he did not attend, citing scheduling conflicts.
The secretiveness drew the ire of some World Bank members. South Africa’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, told the Financial Times “there are serious concerns about the levels of transparency.” Leaders of international NGOs, such as Oxfam and Save the Children, joined in the criticism. And Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born businessman,pointed out that “no one can lecture developing countries on how to manage their processes if [global public institutions] so brazenly do not conform to the same standards.”
But, as Dan Drezner of the Fletcher School at Tufts University pointed out, Barack Obama was never, in an election year, going to give his opponents any unnecessary ammunition by failing to get his choice for the World Bank accepted.
No one can know in advance how Dr Kim will fare. Forecasts in this area have a way of going spectacularly awry. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to be a disaster before he took over the bank’s twin sister organisation, the IMF. But until his public humiliation at the very end of his term, the Frenchman proved to be a successful IMF chief.
Michael Woolcock, a World Bank staffer, suggests that two rather different models of development have been pitted against one another in the contest for president. On the one hand is what he calls Big Development, whose aim is the transformation of entire countries through investments in national education, justice and public health. Governments are essential to Big Development because they are responsible for the overall policy. And the World Bank is pre-eminently a Big Development institution. On the other hand is Small Development. “Inspired less by transformational visions of entire countries,” Mr Woolcock argues, “and more by the immediate plight of particular demographic groups (AIDS orphans, child soldiers, 'the poor') living in particular geographic places (disaster zones, refugee camps, urban slums), Small Development advocates focus not on building systems in the medium run but on compensating for the failure of systems in the short run. ‘Development’ thus becomes an exercise in advocacy, in accurate targeting, in identifying particular ‘tools’ that ‘work’”.
In this scheme of things Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister, represented Big Development; Dr Kim, a public-health advocate, Small. Dr Kim was almost certainly picked because of his passport. But if his background is any guide, his tenure as chief is likely to shift the bank more towards Small Development. Whether that is a good thing on balance remains to be seen.