Friday, April 19, 2024

EDITORIAL: Colonial legacy alive at World Bank

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The recent selection of a new president of the World Bank reinforces the rigid control of international institutions by the developed countries, with the developing countries merely passive observers in the process.
The selection of the American nominee Jim Yong Kim as president over Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was overwhelmingly considered as a vastly superior candidate, is impossible to condone but easy to explain.
The result was no surprise as yet another United States citizen reigned supreme over the world’s leading lender and development organization. The selection process is anything but transparent and undermined the United States’ claim to the contrary.
Indeed, any claims to openness in the lead-up to the selection process could not stand up to scrutiny in much the same way as carpet bombing was called “pacification” during the Vietnam War.
Thus, the roll-out of the American propaganda machine for Mr Kim, who travelled to many capitals around the world with United States Treasury Department support and promises of American largesse, surely biased the vote against Ms Okonjo-Iweala.
After all, the World Bank is a donor institution and potential borrowers from developing countries should have supported Okonjo-Iweala. However, they acted prudently and voted for Kim, who had greater financial backing.
President Barack Obama surprised many when he nominated Mr Kim, a development expert. The move was probably intended to placate developing countries that have for long been lobbying for one of their candidates to occupy the top slot on the basis of merit.
In a genuinely open, merit-based contest, the 25-member executive board’s deliberations should have been preceded by debates between the candidates. There was every likelihood that Ms Okonjo-Iweala, with her enormous competence and wit, might have got the better of Kim.
It was a pity that developing nations did not work together to produce unified support for Ms Okonjo-Iweala if they wanted meaningful change.
Mr Obama’s gesture to name a naturalized citizen is welcome but the time has indeed come to open up the World Bank and IMF to genuine democracy for greater international representation in policymaking from developing countries.
The World Bank and its private sector arm, the IMF, created under the 1944 Bretton Woods agreements that set out a framework for financial stability after World War II, are too colonial to withstand scrutiny of this globalized era.
Developing countries should be acknowledged on merit. It is high time American and European monopoly over lending institutions end and a system based on fair play and consensus come into existence.

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