13 April 2012

Ocampo out! Are the Stars Aligning for Ngozi?

Reuters is reporting that Jose Ocampo is dropping out of the 'race' to be the next World Bank President.
Former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo is set to withdraw his nomination for the World Bank presidency on Friday in an agreement among emerging and developing countries to coalesce around one nominee, three sources said. 
Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would remain as the sole candidate from developing nations in a race against U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert who is seen as the favorite to win the race. 
A straw poll among World Bank directors representing the Group of 11, which includes emerging countries and Australia, backed Okonjo-Iweala, the sources said.
Further, Brazil says the BRICS are going to align behind a single candidate.
Guido Mantega said Brazil, Russia, India and China will make their choice together -- though not mentioning South Africa, the group's fifth member. 
"We will take a position together with the BRICS, making a common choice," Mantega said.
He said the four do not have a common position yet, but would reach one today. 
The Bank's directors want to reach a consensus decision for a new president by the end of next week when the Bank and the International Monetary Fund hold their annual Spring Meetings
At the same time Russia announced its backing for Jim Kim. From the Wall Street Journal:
The move may help Kim to get support from other BRICS nations, an informal block which comprises of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said Friday that the BRIC countries are likely to make a joint decision on a preferred candidate for the World Bank presidency. 
"Mr. Kim is a professional of a global scale, with a practical job experience, who knows our country", the minister Anton Siluanov said in a statement. Kim visited Russia Friday. 
Siluanov added that BRICS members considered "professional qualities" as the main criteria for their support of a candidate.
Jim Kim continues to get slammed by Lant Prichett, just about everyone at CGD, Bill Easterly and others. If the BRICS follow the lead of Russia and support Kim it looks like he is the slam dunk winner for the job. Given the announcements by Russia and Brazil, the Russians may have jumped the shark to try to move the collective decision in the direction they prefer.

It is a big deal who is picked for the role. I believe that nitpicking on Kim is a bit unwarrented given that the same Ngozi seems to get a free pass just for being an economist. At times it feels like Augusta National determining who should lead the club based on the handicap of the contenders. Ngozi is the scratch golfer that all assume means will know best while Kim has an ugly self-taught swing, but posts good scores as well.

Like the Masters, we get to see the scorecards. Each golfer plays in front of the crowd to ensure that they are not cheating. The World Bank can and should do the same. This is the place to concentrate the OpEds and public calls. The candidates do matter, but the closed system lead us to some underwhelming options. Hopefully, this can be the time for reform so that they next time around can be an eve more open process.

For the Kim opponents, let's not forget that the ugly swing with a giant hook can work out quite well. Just ask Bubba Watson: