If the next president of the World Bank is once again to be an American, George
W Bush could do no better than to nominate his predecessor, Bill Clinton,
to the job. Clinton has the vanishingly rare combination of being able to understand
complex development issues, on the one hand, while being a master politician,
on the other – something very necessary if the president of the Bank isn’t
to be hamstrung by the micromanagement of its board.
Clinton is also bold, when he needs to be: just look at how he treats US drug
companies who are charging too much money for Aids drugs in countries such as
Dugger reports on his foundation’s initiative to provide cheaper, patent-infringing
drugs from India:
Jennifer Smoter, a spokeswoman for Abbott, said patents were needed “to
ensure innovation in the future” but declined to respond to Mr. Clinton’s
comment that “Abbott has been almost alone in its hard-line position
here over what I consider to be a life and death matter.”…
Jeffrey L. Sturchio, a vice president at Merck in New Jersey, says his company
strives to balance providing the broadest possible access to AIDS drugs while
maintaining financial incentives to attract companies to conduct research
and development on new drugs.
Brazil and Thailand have overridden Merck’s patent on the AIDS drug
efavirenz, an ingredient of the new, improved first-line AIDS therapies. Merck
had been charging Brazil $577 annually per patient, a price it agreed to drop
to $400 a year after Brazil said it was considering overriding the patent.
The Clinton Foundation’s new price for the generic drug is $164.
The drug companies are on very thin ice here: Clinton’s quite right that they
don’t need Thai profts to run their R&D operations. And the US, which last
week put Thailand on a watch list for countries inadequately safeguarding the
intellectual property rights of American companies, is simply being a global
bully on a subject which needs much more humanity and much less profiteering.
The fact is that intellectual property rights are conferred by the laws of
individual countries, and there’s no reason why those rights should be as strict
in Thailand as they are in the US, which has taken such rights way too far.
Clinton understands this; Bush does not. Which is one of a million reasons why
Bush will not nominate Clinton to the World Bank, more’s the pity.