(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
If there could possibly be a worse choice to head the World Bank when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year, I am sure that President Obama would find him or her. The rumors are that the president has decided to leave his “mark” on that banking institution by nominating Larry Summers for the position. Yes, that Larry Summers of the Harvard president of misogyny fame who was chief architect of banking deregulation that led to the repeal of Glass – Stiegel during the Clinton, that begat our current financial crisis. The Larry Summers who dismissed out of hand the suggestion that a bigger stimulus package would do more to boost the economy most likely because it was a woman, Christine Roemer, who proposed it.
And one of the biggest reasons why Larry could be one of the worst choices, as Felix Salmon explains, besides the fact Larry lacks the skills, he isn’t a diplomat:
The only way to be an effective World Bank president is to be an effective diplomat. Like all CEOs, the head of the Bank reports to a board of directors – but at the World Bank, the board of directors meets twice a week. And they’re not friendly hand-picked board members, either – they’re political appointees who fight their geographical corners, who live full-time in Washington, and who work full-time out of offices within the Bank itself. If you want to get anything done at the Bank, you need to persuade the board to leave you alone and not micromanage every decision you make.
You also need to be an almost superhuman manager. The World Bank has more than 10,000 employees from over 160 countries, with offices in more than 100 countries around the world. The range of cultural expectations they bring to their jobs is truly enormous, and the amount of political jostling and mutual incomprehension which results is entirely predictable. In order to manage this rabble, you need a very high level of cultural and interpersonal sensitivity.
And then there’s leadership: “the vision thing”, as Geoge HW Bush would put it, and the ability to get your organization to line up behind how you think the Bank – and, for that matter, the World – should work. Summers is not known for his work on global poverty reduction, and his previous tenure at the World Bank is remembered mainly for the pollution memo – an “ironic” proposal to increase pollution in poor countries, which resulted in the label “perfectly logical but totally insane” being attached to Summers for many years thereafter.
If Obama wants to leave his mark on the World Bank, this will definitely do it but not the way he’d like.