The World Bank is hiring
ROBERT ZOELLICK, the moustachioed former U.S. Trade Representative appointed to head the World Bank by George W. Bush, has announced, not unexpectedly, that he'll be stepping down from that position after almost 5 years at the organisation's helm. The news has already touched off a wave of speculation over his likely successor. The job is typically reserved for an American, much as the IMF's top position has historically gone to a European and the role of UN Secretary General has been held by a citizen of "the third world". Leading contenders for the position (in the rumour mills at least) are Americans—Larry Summers and Hillary Clinton are frequently mentioned—but the growing importance to the world economy and international diplomacy of large emerging markets may well inform the choice, particularly given the World Bank's development portfolio.Nancy Birdsall at the Center for Global Development assesses the dynamic:On paper, the United States is committed to a process for selection of the next president that is “open, transparent and merit-based”...But then there is the political reality: can the Obama White House in an election year, facing a Congress suspicious of a globally honored president, eschew pushing through its own American candidate? And anyway would a non-American at the helm in the World Bank be able to raise the resources on Capitol Hill that have already been committed in principle by the United States for the next several years? The election year timing puts the White House in an especially unenviable position. There is a risk that the World Bank could become a highly partisan, U.S. hot-button issue, as the UN has too often been.Meanwhile: will the Chinese get together with the Indians and the Brazilians and other emerging markets to support a candidate of their own (as they did not in the case of the IMF)? Will some eminently eligible candidates—former heads of state included—from some countries be overlooked because they are members of the wrong party at home? Will the board of the World Bank (as did the IMF board) announce its plans to formally interview all candidates that are nominated? Will the Europeans signal early to the United States their understanding and sympathy and full support for whomever the White House proposes—or, as did the United States when Christine Lagarde was the European candidate, wait and see where the chips are falling?