The Multilateralist

Is the U.S. feeling pressure about the World Bank presidency?

Robin Harding and John-Paul Rathbone insist that the United States is feeling pressure from the developing world over the World Bank leadership question. They also think the dynamic surrounding the Bank leadership race is quite different  than it was in the case of the International Monetary Fund: In contrast to the recent battle to lead ...

Robin Harding and John-Paul Rathbone insist that the United States is feeling pressure from the developing world over the World Bank leadership question. They also think the dynamic surrounding the Bank leadership race is quite different  than it was in the case of the International Monetary Fund:

In contrast to the recent battle to lead the International Monetary Fund, which was never in real doubt as French finance minister Christine Lagarde raced around the world to secure support, developing countries are organised to challenge a procession to the World Bank presidency.

"We as emerging markets and developing countries have been making a concerted effort to identify our most qualified and competent candidates," said Amar Bhattacharya, director of the G24 office in Washington. The G24 is an economic umbrella group for the largest developing countries, and the Brics group of Brazil, Russia, India and China has also been active in debating candidates.

I don’t see it. To me, the situation appears quite similar to the IMF leadership race (with the U.S. and European roles reversed): The United States is essentially insisting on its prerogative to name the Bank president, Europe quietly agrees, and the rest of the world is making gestures at resistance but shows no real inclination to put up a fight. The two developing world candidates that have reportedly emerged–Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Colombia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo–look set to play the role of mostly symbolic competitors that Mexico’s Agustin Carstens and Israel’s Stanley Fischer played in the IMF race.

The only real difference in the dynamic is Jeffrey Sachs’ very public campaign for the position. The Sachs bid adds an element of intrigue, and may be an important long-term precedent, but is all but certain to fall short. He’s garnered support from a group of mostly smaller countries who have very little voting share in the Bank (less then four percent combined). And I haven’t seen any signs that his name is making its way onto White House shortlists. That leaves a familiar dynamic in place: a coronation process doing its best to look like a real race.

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