Sunday, May 27, 2007

The World Bank needs a president credible to the world (and to the USA).

My friend and as an Executive Director of the World Bank former colleague Otaviano Canuto is quoted in FT May 22 saying with respect to the appointment of the next president to substitute for Wolfowitz that the selection should be “based on the merits of a plurality of candidates regardless of nationality” and who could argue with that, though of course the problem of defining what are these “merits” remains.

The first and foremost merit that I believe a World Bank president must have besides the basics is to be able to generate enough credibility outside the small world of the World Bank. This is so since no matter how this multilateral twists and bends, the chances for most of the poor of this world to come out of their misery in a sustainable form lies in being able to connect with the real world. Also the World Bank itself is dependent on this connection if it is to strengthen its role as a global public-goods producer.

And so, unfortunately, we might be back to square one where the best we can hope for now, is for the United States to nominate a person that fully and truly represents the United States, and counts with the favourable opinion of Europe. By the way I would never view such a candidate as a foe but, if I did, I much more prefer to work with an impressive foe than with a diddling friend.

Let us not despair though; the time will come when the world will be ripe for Otaviano Canuto’s proposal, and much faster than what we can imagine.