It is my great pleasure to be able to announce the candidacy of Muhammad Yunus to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank.
As Yunus said last week in Berlin, "The World Bank should be turned into a 'bank for the poor' with the aim of ultimately diminishing poverty worldwide."
Here is a brief resume of Yunus' qualifications for this position:
- He is an economist.
- He won the Nobel Peace prize in 2006 in conjunction with the Grameen Bank, for efforts to extend credit to the poor.
- He is not an American.
Now let me deal with some likely objections to the Yunus candidacy.
Objection: by "tradition," the head of the World Bank is an American. "Because of our traditions," Tevye said, "each of us knows who he is, and what God expects him to do."
Fair enough. As Hayakawa said of the Panama Canal, "We stole it fair and square." But it could be argued that the tradition of insisting that the President of the World Bank be an American has outlived its usefulness, even from the point of view of the Empire. Must Washington's efforts to dominate the world appear so naked? Can't they go about with a little bit of clothing?
Objection: the President must be approved by the World Bank board, which operates on the basis of one dollar, one vote. "Voting at the World Bank and IMF is proportional to share holding, meaning that the G7 countries, which have 12% of the world's population, hold 57% of the votes," noted Christian Aid in a 2001 policy briefing.
Therefore, the G7 countries call the shots, and Europe will roll over for the U.S., as it almost always has in the past.
Points taken. But note the "almost always." At the end of the day, Europe did not roll over on Wolfowitz. This has set a precedent. Now that they have proved that it is not, in fact, an inexorable law of the universe that they have to roll over for the U.S., the onus is on European countries to explain why they have to roll over in this case.
In fact, this is a key reason why the Yunus candidacy is an idea whose time has come. It will force the European countries to explain why they have to roll over.
Moreover, just because it's one dollar, one vote, does not mean you cannot have a food fight. If 57% of the votes belong to the G7 countries, that means 43% of the votes belong somewhere else. If those 43% were committed to Yunus, we'd just have to split off 7% from the G7 vote to beat the Bush candidate, Mr. Zoellick. Suppose that the UK, France, and Japan vote with the U.S., but Germany (whose development minister said the future president of the World Bank should be selected with a "maximum involvement of all shareholders, especially the developing countries,") Canada, and Italy voted with the rest of the world. Then Yunus would win.
Objection: But the rest of the world, that 43%, will never vote as a bloc.
To which the answer is: let the client states stand up and be counted. But many countries may be delighted to stand against the U.S. on this question if it comes to a vote. Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil, acting together, have more votes than Canada or Italy alone.
Objection: those vote shares are meaningless, because the World Bank board never votes on anything.
To which the answer is: there's a first time for everything. Europe forced Wolfowitz to resign, in part, by demonstrating that they had the votes on the World Bank board to force his removal. A precedent has been set.
Objection: how on earth do you propose to organize a campaign for World Bank president?
To which the answer is: by spreading it around the internet. If the idea catches fire, Avaaz.org will do a worldwide petition.
Objection: Muhammad Yunus is not Jesus Christ Almighty. His presidency might not represent a real break from the policies of the Washington Consensus.
To which the answer is: if so, that makes him a better candidate. If you are trying to overturn a dictatorship, you don't necessarily run the most progressive candidate. You might run a candidate who can unite all the democratic forces. After you've run the dictatorship out of town, there will be plenty of opportunities for food fights among the democratic forces.
Point taken. But there is a relationship between the leadership and the policies, and there is a relationship between the policies and the way that decisions are taken at the World Bank board - on user fees for health care, water privatization, labor rights, access to essential medicines - without the voting or transparency that would facilitate accountability for the policies that countries are supporting at the World Bank board. A contested election would help to shine a light into the cave.
Objection: Shouldn't Muhammad Yunus be announcing his own candidacy?
To which the answer is: for his candidacy to be successful, Yunus must remain "above the fray." The task of organizing the food fight belongs to others.