Interesting comments on the World Bank presidency choice have been coming in.
Gregg Gonsalves points me to the Acemoglu and Robinson post where they point out Kim’s transformative role with Partners in Health.
Patrick Sharma also comments,
But I do agree with Gregg that we shouldn’t be so quick to consider Kim’s lack of economic bona fides a handicap. The Bank could certainly use some fresh thinking, and his non-traditional academic and policy background might help the organization grow in useful and unexpected ways.
It could just be me, but I detect an economist superiority complex at work with some of the criticism of Kim.
I agree there are many good candidates, including Kim, but we should also remember that at root this is a bank, which does not operate like an NGO, and mainly lends at concessionary rates, and mainly deals with Finance Ministers and very complex macroeconomic issues.
Thus, having someone at the helm who understands macroeconomics and banking and has been a Minister of Finance in a developing country has some advantages. It also helps to know how the Bank works before you begin. Both Ngozi and the other nominee, Jose-Antonio Ocampo, have those bona fides. There are insider advantages.
I don’t think acknowledging insider advantages is an argument for “more of the same”, or an economist bias. If we were appointing an economist to head the CDC or WHO, or an engineer to head the UN Human Rights Commission, we would look to the appointer to explain why that person’s strengths outweigh the lack of direct experience.
It’s possible that case can be made. I suppose my point is that it ought to be made.
The more important point is that it doesn’t have to be made. US administrations have never been accountable for their nominee. It is an nontransparent, politicized process and the decisions are made by people who have the US’s interests, not the world’s interests, at the front of their minds.
Any candidate that emerges from such a process, no matter how noble, is suspect. And that candidate, no matter how well qualified or respected, is worth rejecting on principle alone.