Sunday, February 19, 2012

A China representative for World Bank chief

By Bernie Quigley
For The Hill on 2/20/12

The World Bank chief position is opening up again. Possibly more than any other global body World Bank has become pretext for what is called NGO imperialism. And like the Academy Awards “life work” awards or the Nobel Prize at the end of a life’s work, it has come to glorify an individual and her realm once the diva has become irrelevant. Hillary Clinton, who during her run for the presidency, said she had no use for “elitist economists,” is contender today and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and former Treasury chief Larry Summers have been suggested. Traditionally, the Bank president has always been a U.S. citizen nominated by the United States. But The Manila Bulletin reports that China, the world's second-largest economy, wants the next World Bank president to be selected on merit, “going against a tradition that dictates the bank's head is an American.”

This next World Bank chief should come from China or Singapore.

The Economic Times agrees that a non-American should take the helm: “The world might have changed dramatically since 1945 when the Bank was established, along with its Bretton Woods twin, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) . . . China is now the second-largest economy and emerging economies account for close to 55% of world GDP measured in terms of purchasing power parity. But, for the Bank and the Fund, it is as though nothing has changed. The result is the unwritten pact between the US and Europe, that has seen Americans at the helm of the Bank and Europeans at the Fund, continues to hold sway.”

The emerging economies, they write, especially the Brics, must come together on this and agree on a candidate from amongst them.

This calling up of agents of passing realms, Clinton, Geithner, Summers and Wolfowitz, tends to drag down the entire industry. If World Bank and its dark twin, the International Monetary Fund, are not to go to the way of the court of Louis Quatorze, they should try to rise to relevance. Harvard’s Niall Ferguson reported recently on Bloomberg that had it not been for China, we today would now be in a Great Depression. It seems a relevant observation, but denial of Asian economy and power rising and having already arrived seems still the dominant theme in these appointments.

Legendary investor Jim Rogers, who not long ago moved his family from New York City to Singapore, complains that there has never been a Nobel Prize for economics given to an Asian working economist, in a period when the rise of China and the other Eastern economies is the economic story of the century.

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew may be seen as this age’s sage and master. And Hu Jintao’s China brought stabilization in a time of global turmoil. A proxy for Yew’s Singapore of Hu’s China should be sent. Such a position would bring Americans psychological acceptance of the rising century and bring status and relevance once again to the World Bank.

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