The Multilateralist

Poaching national talent

Yesterday, the World Bank announced the apppointment of a new managing director. He’s an Egyptian cabinet minister and by all accounts is talented and well qualified. He’s also a key reformer in the Egyptian government. Speculation he would join the World Bank has already sparked media discussion about possible successors for his ministerial portfolio, seen ...

Yesterday, the World Bank announced the apppointment of a new managing director. He’s an Egyptian cabinet minister and by all accounts is talented and well qualified. He’s also a key reformer in the Egyptian government.

Speculation he would join the World Bank has already sparked media discussion about possible successors for his ministerial portfolio, seen as vital to an economic team that has pushed through controversial free market reforms since 2004.

The appointment raises the question of whether the increasingly dense network of international organizations — always hungry for talented developing world candidates — doesn’t produce a mini brain-drain of its own. It was a phenomenon that I witnessed in the Balkans more than a decade ago. National government simply couldn’t compete with well heeled multinational bureaucracies on pay and perks. Given the choice, talented Bosnians went to work for the U.N. or the OSCE rather than labor in the struggling and often under-funded national ministries. But of course the ultimate solution to critical governance issues is effective and talented national government.

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