Okonjo-Iweala as Interim World Bank President?

Last week, the Center for Global Development’s Nancy Birdsall had

a rather

good idea: that the next president of the World Bank not serve a full five-year

term, but rather simply serve out the remaining three years of Paul

Wolfowitz’s term. She explained:

The U.S. could proceed with the nomination of a single U.S. candidate for

consideration by the board, with the clear understanding–in advance of proposing

a specific individual–that the nominee will serve for the balance of Paul

Wolfowitz’s uncompleted term, that is, for three years. The new president,

who would commit in advance not to seek a second term, would have one central

task besides keeping the trains running on time: to work with other members

of the bank and with the U.S. administration to devise a reformed selection

process for his successor that is broadly acceptable to the bank’s shareholders–the

nations of the world.

Great minds think alike, it would seem, as Joe Stiglitz said

something very

similar in testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services:

The appropriate course of action at this juncture may be the appointment

of an interim President, for the next 20 to 24 months, who, while continuing

with oversight of the day to day operations of the bank, sees as his/her mandate

reaching consensus on a new model of governance.

Stiglitz went on to name one particular name:

I hesitate to mention names, but one that quickly comes to mind is Ngozi

Okonjo-Iweala, a scholar at the Brookings Institution, who proved

her mettle during the difficult period of the East Asia crisis, while serving

as the World Bank’s country director for Malaysia, and who subsequently

showed her effectiveness in promoting development and fighting corruption

as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and, later, Foreign Minister. It would

send a wonderful message to the world that those who fight consistently and

effectively for development and against corruption get rewarded, regardless

of political connections, gender, and nation of origin.

Special bonus news, too: Bill Frist doesn’t

want the job. He was probably the worst of the names being put forward,

so this is definitely a positive development. If George Bush is determined to

appoint an American — and it seems that he is — then I think the idea of appointing

someone for just two or three years is a very good one. I think Paul

Volcker might make a good caretaker, someone who would let the World

Bank staff get on with their jobs, while spending most of his efforts on restructuring

the governance architecture at the top of the bank.

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