17 April 2012

President Kim

So, no big surprise, Jim Yong Kim is the new President of the World Bank. You can hear me wittering on about it at this BBC World Service link.

Reactions: Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and Jose Antonio Ocampo have, I believe, changed the selection process for ever. Will it be a meritocratic process in 5 years time? Maybe, but I predict we will at least have a public airing of candidates' vision of development, vision for the Bank and what they would do to realise the latter to contribute to the former.

Ngozi said that such a process would be fairer for the developing countries, but it is also fairer for everyone. My colleague Naomi Hossain has just released a World Bank published book "Living Through Crises" with Rasmus Heltberg and Anne Reva (see here for a free copy) which documents how the crises of the past 5 years (food, fuel, financial) have affected the very poorest throughout the world. The world has a huge stake in the World Bank's management of these crises and we should all have a voice.

What of President Kim? The Guardian Development pages will be running a feature on what various people think his priorities should be.

This is my entry...

"The new World Bank President should focus on the quality of growth. He should promote the view that growth is not necessarily good and not necessarily bad. They should instead set goals for what growth must achieve. How can we get growth that reduces poverty, creates jobs, uses natural resources sustainably, and does not breed corruption? That will mean more of an emphasis on the governance and politics of growth. In turn that will require a better balance of disciplines represented on the Bank’s professional staff. The President should also lead the charge to change the way future Presidents are appointed. The current system makes mockery of meritocracy and is hypocritical in the extreme."

Interestingly on his interview with BBC Kim said his number one priority was growth that delivers jobs and reduces poverty. OK, good, this is the same priority as stated by Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, but what ideas does he have for the Bank to make this more likely?

His book (he is lead editor), Dying for Growth, lays him open to the charge from people like Bill Easterly that he is anti-growth. As I have often argued in these pages, growth is not a cure-all and an absence of it is not a kill-all--it depends on what the growth does. Growth is a potential means to an end. If it delivers jobs while not wrecking the environment and not fuelling corruption, then wonderful. The difficult bit is figuring out how that kind of high quality growth can be generated. A good first step would be to measure it.

Will President Kim be a breath of fresh air or a flop? We all hope for the former.

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