World Bank’s Old Way of Getting a New President

“Surprise! Surprise!” I said to myself as I clicked the link to an article on devex.

The opening paragraph read:”The legitimacy of the World Bank’s presidential appointment process is under renewed scrutiny after U.S. President Donald Trump’s pick, David Malpass, emerged as the only candidate to succeed Jim Kim.

Knowing what I know about the politics of a leadership adjustment at the World Bank, I looked forward to the upcoming Spring meetings. Surely there would be calming announcements about non-change-changes, eager voices of support, and not so public but ever so humiliating casualties of politics. Ofcourse, diverse candidates would take a hit in these inevitable shake ups as back door deals are made by the privileged many, and allegiances cemented in pursuit of personal ambitions. In this arena, the mission is the self, not the greater good, meritocracy or fairness. No surprises there, the tone is set from the example at the top.

As Nancy Birdsall points out in her article, ” Like the US, the World Bank needs its next president to save it—in this case from a slide into irrelevance and obscurity if this century’s new global challenges re not addressed head on. A woman would bring fresh air and a new perspective to an institution that is still stuck in a rut. A woman would bring a new kind of leadership… Lack of competition or any kind of contestation signals a problem: monopoly power, some insider deal.


With the world changing so rapidly around us, still the World Bank remains in the dark ages. This permeates through out the institution.

It’s a well known problem seldomly discussed in the public sphere. The institution faces significant challenges with it’s hiring and promotions, suffering from a lack of representation and retention of “Afro-descendant” candidates. The leadership of Human Resources are often quick to state that there’s no enough of a pipeline or there aren’t enough qualified candidates. Which is far from the truth.

There is a poor record of fair treatment and a long history of “insider deals.” These are serious problems that have remained unaddressed. Unfortunately, these are not priorities for those in control. Since developing countries are disproportionately affected by these outdated norms, change must come.

However, how can we expect things to happen if we don’t have much of a vote? As Owen Barder points out: “The World Bank (and IMF) are of most importance to the countries which have least control over them. More than a quarter of 2017 commitments were in sub-Saharan Africa, which has less than six percent of votes.


Don’t underestimate the replication of race and gender based problems that national bodies have long time addressed during the women’s movement around the world and the civil rights movement in the United States.

The gender pay gap issue is a live and significant reality with female staff from developing countries facing the greatest disadvantage. Quite often decisions about compensation offers, promotions and pay raises are colored by prejudice and presumptions. I believe that a standard applied with bias, is a sanctioned imposition of prejudice. There are many Administrative Tribunal cases on the matter, with judgments published and available to the public (more on that in another post).

The opportunities available in many of these institutions are often doled out without a competitive process, and even when the formalities are carried out it’s well known that there wasn’t any REAL competition. Many are designated for a preferred candidate or a chosen applicant is provided with advantages to come out looking like “the best candidate”.

Similarly, many ‘first access foot in the door” positions within these international organization are filled through “gentlemen’s agreements”. There’s no way of knowing the statistical facts since they are not compelled to submit such statistics to external scrutiny and accountability. Transparency would go a long way to ameliorating these injustices.
“Wage transparency works: Reduces gender pay gap by 7 percent.” INSEAD:
New research shows that the much-discussed measure of requiring firms to disclose gender segregated wage-statistics to clarify differences in women´s and men´s wages reduces the pay gap by 7 percent.


Competition is a good thing, since only really good candidates should be present at this level then merit should be the truly deciding force. This would certainly give more of us an equal chance. However, just like how the leadership is chosen, that’s not always the case given the historic advantage.


Barder, Owen. “Time, Gentlemen, Please—Next President of the World Bank.” Inter Pres Service News Agency, February 7, 2019, Retrieved April 24, 2019.

Birdsall, Nancy. “May the Best Woman Win at the World Bank.” Center for Global Development, February 4, 2019, Retrieved April 23, 2019.

Edwards, Sophie. “David Malpass Unchallenged to be Next World Bank President.” Devex, March 15, 2019, Retrieved April 30, 2019.

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