World Bank Board: Time to Step Up for an Open and Transparent Selection Process for the Next Bank President

Unlike the chaotic and haphazard manner in which IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was replaced by another European, Christine Lagarde, the next president of the World Bank ought to be selected carefully and in an open and transparent manner. It is January now and the next president should be selected before June 30 when Robert Zoellick's term ends.

Finance Ministries of several G-20 nations, including the U.S. Treasury that is the top shareholder, have informed me that they are committed to an open and transparent process. But what is that process? So far the Board has been keeping quiet, which in itself borders on dereliction of duty. By not producing and leading an open, merit-based selection process the World Bank Board is opening the doors for machinations of all kinds frequently seen in the international system, otherwise known as horse-trading. It is the Board that should be out in front and indeed the G-20 shareholders ought to be setting out that transparent, merit-based process. Instead there has been a deafening silence. This is particularly surprising since the Board of Governors of the World Bank has granted a $86 Billion capital increase that is now being funded by the U.S. Congress and parliaments around the world, and the leverage of the Board ought to be highest at this time.

One reason for this lethargy is the structural problem inherent in the Board -- because the Bank president chairs the Board. And it is that job that is at stake here. The World Bank High-Level Commission had recommended in 2009 that a shareholder Board Member chair the Board and not Robert Zoellick but no one has insisted and ensured that that change was done -- which is particularly the fault of the U.S. that is the top shareholder and Board Member Ian Solomon, who was a legislative aide to then-Senator Obama. That again is another clear deficiency of the World Bank's Board. It is quite obvious that Robert Zoellick would not let go of his seat as Board Chair without a fight.

One absolute criteria should be that the next World Bank Group President should have lived, worked or studied in developing countries - not in the luxurious lifestyle of multilateral officials temporarily stationed in an exotic locale but rather those who have worked as entrepreneurs or other risk-takers to create employment and empowerment or service. Robert Zoellick's main qualification was that he was the Chief of Staff of the Florida Recount that put George W. Bush into office and also having been a long-time aide of James Baker III, who himself was a Consigliere of the Bush family. Most of the positions Zoellick occupied were hand-outs by those gentlemen.

And yes, it is also time for key parliamentarians like Senator Mark Kirk, the only U.S. Senator to have served on the staff of the World Bank Group to enhance their oversight work.

It is mainly the responsibility of the major current shareholders, the U.S., Japan, the Europeans and the future leading shareholders, China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and others to ensure that a proper selection process for the next President of the World Bank is in place. Merely putting out communiqués and thereafter not implementing them is a disgrace in the light of endless talk about global governance.