(The author, a global sustainability entrepreneur, lobbyist and consultant, is the owner, founder and Chief Executive Officer of two Washington, DC-based sustainable global integration firms).
The World Bank Group needs a new president by the end of June this year. The World Bank, and poverty reduction in general, needs big picture thinking that can unleash the power of macroeconomic policy to devolve down to the poor.
The prestigious position always held by an American, during this time of purportedly seminal change in how the advanced economies see the rest of the world. Whether that change will materialize, however, is yet to be seen.
There are several candidates jockeying to be in the eye of notice of world leaders.
A very important consideration is race, for transition and compromise among the Bank’s governing Board in the governance of the poverty reduction mission of The World Bank, in a world which is majority non-white and where most of the world’s poverty lays. The presidency of The World Bank, however, has always been held by a white American male.
A few notable names, all colored for the above mentioned reason, waiting in the wings, are mentioned in this note in rank order from most qualified to least qualified for The White House and the world governments to consider:
1. Colin Powell, son of Jamaican immigrants from South Bronx, New York, author of My American Journey about leadership, a graduate of City College of New York in Geology, an ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) recruit into the US Army (not one of the elite defense academy graduates who typically rise in today’s US military of General David Petraeus, a Princeton PHD) and a George Washington University MBA, a protestor from within about Vietnam war policies while serving in Vietnam, Ronald Reagan’s National Security Adviser, the man who could have been America’s first colored president, and former United States (US) Secretary of State who had wisely cautioned former President George W. Bush on the approach to Iraq war in 2003 but, by his own account, in a Saturday issue of The Washington Post Magazine, had lost credibility at the United Nations (UN) because he failed to thoroughly scrutinize Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) data from George Tenet about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Saddam’s Iraq before he acceded to Bush and Cheney, his bosses in the White House, to present the US case to the UN in a flashback of the Cuban Missile Crisis during the Kennedy Administration.
Still, this faux pas, even though the decision to go to war was not Powell’s, should not have been made but if former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who was President of Ford Motor Company before he was Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War could hold the World Bank job, Colin Powell can now be nominated President of World Bank by President Barack Obama as Iraq returns to normalcy “from within”, the how of poverty reduction and global sustainability.
3. Raghuram Rajan of University of Chicago, who was Economic Counsellor to the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF; an Indian citizen when at the IMF, his US citizenship must be verified) for three years from 2003-2006, wrote an interesting co-authored paper on aid effectiveness while at the IMF as a follow up to his popularization of microfinance invented by Nobel Peace Laureate Mohammed Yunus of Bangladesh in his co-authored book with Luigi Zingales, “Saving Capitalism From The Capitalists”, a misnomer of a title for anyone who understands the basics of economics (surprisingly, even those educated at Samuelson’s and Solow’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Economics and Finance, as Rajan was, do not), now a staple of corruption controversy.
Rajan’s aid effectiveness paper had a substantial impact on thinking about poverty reduction, an objective the IMF had begun to share with the World Bank in recent years. As a finance professor and also adviser to India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, Rajan would be better off at the IMF in some future role at some point (One of its three Deputy Managing Directors) or as India’s finance minister (though he does not understand government budgets or the structure of government well) than at the Bank because of his lack of contributions to serious thinking about global development and poverty reduction.
3. Abijit Banerjee (the Indian’s US citizenship must be verified), currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT and the 2003 founder of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) recently co-wrote a book on poverty reduction. His affiliation with Goldman Sachs’ GS Sustain, an unremarkable enterprise at a time of financial controversy in US and Europe where the New York investment bank has been playing a dubious role for over a decade now, puts him at a serious disadvantage for consideration for the World Bank presidency besides, of course, his small picture microbehavioral approach to channeling aid funding.
4. Roger Ferguson, former Vice Chairman at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC, an all-Harvard black man with a PHD in microeconomics and a law degree, who is now the CEO of the pension funds corporation TIAA-CREF, has no background or sense for international development or poverty reduction. The former McKinsey information technology consultant, with some experience in consulting for the finance industry out of McKinsey’s New York office, served unremarkably on the Fed Board and on the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB) without much recovery to show in the world’s wealthiest economy. During his tenure on PERAB, poverty in America is, in fact, on the rise. Global poverty reduction, therefore, will be a more daunting challenge for him.
United States Department of State wins once again at the Bank in the horse race to succeed Robert Zoellick, who was at the Bush State Department, with the prospective nomination of Colin Powell, who also founded America’s Promise, to The World Bank.