There is a job opening to head the World Bank and there have been some interesting maneuverings to fill it.
Ever since its creation in 1944, the job has gone to an American while the corresponding position at the sister institution the International Monetary Fund has gone to a European. While the decision is ostensibly made by consensus, the actual voting strength depends on the contributions of each country and the US has about 16% and the EU countries have about 29%. As long as they stick together, it will be hard for other nations to get one of their own into the position.
But there have been some grumblings about this entrenched practice, smacking as it does of neocolonialism. This year some smaller countries have tried the tactic of nominating US development economist Jeffrey Sachs as ‘their’ candidate while Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated by three African countries.
Earlier, Felix Salmon wrote that Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would be an excellent choice, saying that “She’s a whip-smart economist, she’s honest, she’s imaginative, she’s dedicated, she’s expert at navigating the Bank’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and politics, and she’s passionate about the way that the Bank can really make the world a better place.” Salmon said that her candidacy put heavy pressure on Obama to come up with an exceptionally strong candidate if he wanted to continue US leadership.
In a surprise move, Barack Obama today nominated a Korean-born American academic and doctor and president of Dartmouth College Jim Yong Kim.
Whether this will be sufficient to mollify those critics of US domination remains to be seen. Today Salmon writes that he was as surprised by the Kim nomination as anyone else and although he had never heard of him before, what he hears now makes him cautiously optimistic.