choosing the next World Bank president

Tomorrow – Monday, March 16th – the World Bank board will name the next World Bank president. Two candidates – Jeffrey Sachs and José Antonio Ocampo – have withdrawn, leaving Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to compete for the post with the official US candidate, Jim Yong Kim. This is twice as many candidates as usual, but no-one doubts that the US candidate will win the job, because of an unwritten agreement that the US always backs Europe’s candidate to head the IMF, and Europe in turn backs the US candidate for the World Bank.

To lift your spirits, TdJ encourages you to read the recent ‘non-candidacy’ statement of former World Bank economist Bill Easterly.

I am gratified by the widespread support that my non-nomination for World Bank president has received. My quest to help end poverty has led me to the ends of the Earth. My accomplishments speak for themselves, having successfully offended every official or interest group in any way connected to the World Bank, even the head of maintenance.  ….

I would not lead the World Bank by perpetuating the technocratic illusion that development is something “we” do to “them.” I would not ignore the rights of “them.” If the New York Times should happen to report on the front page that a World Bank-financed project torched the homes and crops of Ugandan farmers, I would not stonewall the investigation for the next 165 days, 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 20 seconds up to now.

William Easterly, “How I Would Not Lead the World Bank“, Foreign Policy, 5 March 2012.

For details on the excruciatingly slow response of the World Bank to “complaints from two communities in Uganda who lost their land in forced evictions to make way for forestry plantations”, click here.

Bill Easterly (born 1957) teaches economics at NYU. From 1985 he worked for 16 years as economist and Senior Adviser at the World Bank. He was asked to leave following publication, on July 4th, 2001, of the conclusions of his new book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, as an op-ed in the Financial Times. The official reason for his dismissal was that he published a newspaper article with prior approval. In a new preface for the 2002 paperback edition of the book, Easterly wrote:

[M]any readers have asked if my statement in the original prologue that “my employer … the World Bank … encourages gadflies like me to exercise intellectual freedom” was really accurate. Well almost. It should be modified slightly to “the World Bank … encourages gadflies like me to find another job.”

William Easterly, preface to the 2002 paperback edition of The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2001).

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