Merit should be de­cid­ing fac­tor be­hind World Bank pres­i­dent choice

Global Times - - VIEWPOINT - By Deng Xian­lai and Gao Pan Page Ed­i­tor: wang­wen­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

As the World Bank awaits a suc­ces­sor for outgoing Pres­i­dent Jim Yong Kim, it faces an op­por­tu­nity to select a glob­ally rec­og­nized leader based on mer­its, not on na­tion­al­ity, to shore up mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and strengthen the global lender’s cred­i­bil­ity.

Fol­low­ing Kim’s un­ex­pected de­ci­sion to step down on Fe­bru­ary 1, the World Bank said on Thurs­day it plans to select a new chief be­fore spring meet­ings in April.

It is widely hoped that the nom­i­na­tion of the next pres­i­dent could break away from an un­of­fi­cial but long-held tra­di­tion, so that com­pe­tent can­di­dates with broad devel­op­ment ex­pe­ri­ence, par­tic­u­larly from the de­vel­op­ing world, can have a chance to lead this im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tion.

Ever since the World Bank’s in­cep­tion in 1944, all of its pres­i­dents have been nom­i­nated by the US. And there­fore, all these bank chiefs turned out to be Amer­i­cans. Mean­while, the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF), the World Bank’s sis­ter in­sti­tu­tion, tends to select Eu­ro­pean lead­ers.

Given that emerg­ing mar­kets’ and de­vel­op­ing economies’ to­tal con­tri­bu­tions to global eco­nomic growth have far out­weighed those of the ad­vanced economies in re­cent years, this prac­tice hardly makes sense and needs to be changed soon.

The tra­di­tion puts into ques­tion the le­gal­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness of not only the bank it­self, but also the global fi­nan­cial sys­tem in which the lender plays a vi­tal role.

“If these in­sti­tu­tions are to be made more ap­peal­ing to the rest of the world, the lock hold that the United States and Europe have on both the pres­i­dent of the World Bank and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the IMF has to end,” said Raghu­ram Ra­jan, for­mer gov­er­nor of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia and now a fi­nance pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

Back in 2012, there were two non-US hope­fuls who com­peted with Kim for the po­si­tion of World Bank chief, one from Nige­ria and the other from Colom­bia. Ap­par­ently, they failed to loosen Wash­ing­ton’s grip on the post.

Ac­cord­ing to the lat­est state­ment by the bank’s board of ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors, the next pres­i­dent will be de­ter­mined through an “open, merit-based and trans­par­ent” se­lec­tion process.

To strengthen the le­git­i­macy and rel­e­vance of the World Bank, these ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors should nom­i­nate a num­ber of el­i­gi­ble can­di­dates who have made no­table achieve­ments in poverty al­le­vi­a­tion and other devel­op­ment is­sues, and choose one with a proven devel­op­ment record.

Robert Zoel­lick put for­ward the idea of mod­ern­iz­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism in 2010 when he was pres­i­dent of the World Bank. At that time, he ar­gued for “mod­ern­iz­ing mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism for a mul­ti­po­lar world.”

Al­most a decade since then, to­day’s world is marked by ris­ing anti-glob­al­iza­tion sen­ti­ment and a grow­ing dis­trust in mul­ti­lat­eral mech­a­nisms, both of which, un­for­tu­nately, run counter to what the World Bank rep­re­sents.

The new pres­i­dent of the World Bank needs to con­tinue to up­hold and mod­ern­ize mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism, pro­mote in­clu­sive devel­op­ment glob­ally, and make the global eco­nomic or­der more just and more rea­son­able.

Al­though re­forms adopted by the World Bank in the af­ter­math of the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis in­creased its cap­i­tal and ex­panded the vot­ing power of de­vel­op­ing and tran­si­tion coun­tries, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness of those coun­tries is still sub­stan­tially un­der­es­ti­mated, and their ap­peals of­ten ig­nored.

The au­thors are writ­ers with the Xin­hua News Agency. The ar­ti­cle first ap­peared in Xin­hua. opin­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

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