On Hillary Clinton Angling to be World Bank Chief

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 6/10/2011 12:00:00 AM
You've probably seen the headline that Hillary Clinton is agitating to become the White House's pick to succeed Bush-era appointee (and former USTR) Robert Zoellick as the World Bank president when his term runs out next year. While it's the rumour of the day (evening?), consider:
  1. I'd believe it more emanating from Hillary Clinton herself.
  2. If France's Christine Lagarde becoming the next in an unbroken run of European IMF chiefs weren't bad enough, how about Hillary Clinton among American World Bank heads? Whatever happened to more diverse voices at Bretton Woods institutions?
While I am more favourably disposed to Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama and still think she'd have done a better job as US president, I honestly don't see how, if true, another American rubber stamping would improve the World Bank's image as a truly global institution in representation. Would the Europeans have any choice but to back Missus Clinton as a quid pro quo for Geithner backing Lagarde? The West--the US and Europe--looks poised to keep the old order alive. Bloomberg already suggested as much a few days ago. Coincidence? I sure hope so:
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner says France’s Christine Lagarde and Mexico’s Agustin Carstens are both qualified to run the International Monetary Fund. He may have little choice but to support Lagarde.

Under an unwritten agreement that dates back to the end of World War II, the IMF has always been led by a European while the World Bank has been headed by an American. Backing a non- European for the IMF could mean relinquishing U.S. control of the World Bank -- an outcome members of Congress who decide on funding for development banks are not ready to contemplate.

“For the sake of influencing policy and lending, as well as maintaining congressional support, it is very important that the World Bank continue to be led by an American,” Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee panel that oversees foreign-aid spending, said in an e-mail. Congress has yet to approve the Treasury Department’s $3.4 billion international aid budget for next year, which includes funding for the World Bank.

“We would like to see the U.S. continue to play and have a leadership role in these institutions,” Representative Robert Dold, an Illinois Republican and vice chairman of the Financial Services Committee panel that oversees development banks, said in an interview.
Plus, there's a Foreign Relations Committee report that supports continued US dominance of such lenders, the point being that American would be more comfortable funding them if one of their own was in charge:
A March 2010 report by the staff of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Committee on Foreign Relations, recommended that the U.S. “preserve” its leadership at the World Bank “and senior level positions at the other” international financial institutions. “Having an American at the helm of the World Bank helps ensure continued U.S. support for the institution and facilitates communication” with the bank, the report said.
I'd take fright at the idea even if Bill Clinton's name was put forward. Once more, there are any number of folks from the developed world who can readily fill this position. Besides, the days when the US could easily write the cheques are long gone. Nowadays, it's more honestly the PRC and other LDCs lending the US to fund Bretton Woods institutions, and it may not be long before IMF headquarters are in Beijing due to China's growing contributions.

LDCs, band together to fight this rearguard movement. United we stand, divided we fall.

UPDATE: The White House vehemently denies that she is after the World Bank's top job. Hey, anything to scuttle this bid to maintain the status quo would help, so I thank Reuters in any event.