Friday, March 9, 2012

Why Jeffrey Sachs should be next World Bank President

Going by an op-ed article authored by Prof Jeffrey Sachs last week, he is interested in taking the reins at the World Bank.

For people in the west, the World Bank is no sacred cow and it is another of the myriad of US concerns, which is why then US president,George W Bush, chose Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as World Bank President -which ended in disaster.

Robert Zoellick has been a more agreeable President but he was only a safe' substitute' drafted in after the Wolfowitz shipwreck. He was formerly a US trade negotiator. Clearly, the US's quality of choices of World Bank Presidents in the last ten years betrays an attention deficit disorder.

It so happens that by virtue of being the majority shareholder at the Bank and by virtue of an old pact, it gets to pick the President.

The World Bank could really change the poor world. Although it was set up after the second world war to help a battered Europe, in the last decades it has set its sights on the 'bottom billion' to borrow a Paul Collier term.

There are few candidates in the world who are better suited to be World Bank President ahead of Prof Jeffrey Sachs- a man with a true passion and heart for eradicating world poverty and disease.

I actually took to him belatedly-after reading his Bestseller 'The End of Poverty' in 2005, a book I borrowed from the US Embassy Library in Kampala.

Jeff Sachs is an authentic development economist who is unflinching in his belief that the basket countries of the world can rise up with western aid and support. Another illustrious economist,William Easterly, famously doesn't agree( on the role of Aid) but you cant fault Jeff Sachs for putting forth a feeble case.

Jeff Sachs, President of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Advisor to the UN Secretary General on the Millennium development goals(MDGs) has been a persistent critic of the World Bank for its misguided policies in Sub Saharan Africa and at one accused the World Bank of intellectual dishonesty in its prescriptions for the 'Bottom Billion' countries. His writings partly inspired me to write an article in Kampala's leading daily 'The World Bank/IMF have failed poor nations' which was published literally the next day after I emailed it to the Editor.

I argued in the article that the World Bank's one model fits all approach was disingenuous and an economic tragedy for the intellectually lazy African economic policy authorities. Jeff Sachs in his book 'The End of Poverty' proposes a fascinating approach called 'clinical economics' an antithesis of traditional development economics.

Jeff Sachs is a man with the most eminent of qualifications. He is a highly published academic with real-life economic management experience serving as Economic Advisor to developing countries ranging from post-soviet Poland to Kenya and has written several Best sellers since 'The End of Poverty'.

He has been one of the brains behind the MDGs and the model millennium villages including one near my home district. I had the rare opportunity of meeting Jeff Sachs at a Public Debate when he rolled into town in Kampala about two years ago during the tenure of Dr Ezra Suruma as Uganda's Finance Minister.

The World Bank faces many challenges including its relevance and the need to 'get it right' in Sub Saharan Africa; the emergence of new players in Africa such as China which is now widely reputed to lend more money to the continent, some say three-times as much.

President Obama can do one good thing for Africa before the end of his first term-nominate Jeff Sachs as the US government's choice for World Bank President.

1 comment:

Daniel Sullivan said...