Saturday, April 14, 2012

World Bank Presidency - a question of politics or ability?

As the race for the World Bank Presidency hots up, it occurred to me to drop a couple of lines of my thoughts on the issue. Three candidates emerged for the post:

Jim Yong Kim (United States)

An anthropologist and physician, Dr. Kim emigrated to the U.S. from South Korea with his family when he was 5, settling in Iowa. Dr. Kim, 52, co-founded Partners in Health, a non-profit agency that works in poorer countries, and ran the World Health Organization’s HIV-AIDS program. One of his WHO initiatives successfully treated three million AIDS patients in 2005.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Nigeria)

A renowned performer on the international economic scene, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, 57, studied at Harvard University and MIT. Currently Nigeria's minister of finance (a post she held previuosly) and coordinating minister of the economy, she worked many years as an economist at the World Bank, most recently as a managing director.

Jose Antonio Ocampo (Colombia)

A respected development expert, Mr Campo, 59, lectures at Columbia University in New York. He was previously Colombia’s finance minister. He also held senior positions at the United Nations.

Mr. Ocampo withdrew from the race yesterday, Friday 13 April 2012, having failed to win the support of his home government, which reportedly was concentrating its efforts on winning a different international post.

That leaves us with two finalists: the Nigerian, Okonjo-Iweala and the American, Kim.

The American nominee fails on two counts:

a) he's a health expert - whilst health is important to development (development being the purported aim of the World Bank), it is only a by-product, a symptom if you like. Economics is the central aim of the Bank and so an economic expert is required. Further, the complex state of global economics today means that economic policies are what is required at this moment.

b) he's an American. In a world where the forcefully-imposed American economic world order has finally begun its long-overdue descent and several others rising in it's place such as China, Brazil & Africa (note that Africa's economy is larger than even India's despite the latter being larger in size), oppressive organisations like the World Bank and the IMF need to adjust & modernise to maintain relevance or face the alternative: extinction!

That leaves us with Okonjo-Iweala. According to the selection guidelines, which were updated in 2011, the ideal candidate should have run a big organisation and possess extensive diplomatic and multilateral experience. Here, Okonjo-Iweala comes out on top. She has extensive multilateral and diplomatic experience having spent over 20years at the World Bank (most recently as a Managing Director) dealing with economic matters for many south American, Asian, African and Middle-Eastern countries. She has also been finance minister in Nigeria (the 3rd fastest growing economy in the world, after Mongolia and China) twice. As a result, she has a well developed network of academic, political and economic relationships across the world which should aid her in dealing with the challenges an institution like the the World Bank. As a World Bank Managing Director, she led the recent negotiation of the $49bn funding package for the International Development Association (IDA) for the poorest countries around the world. Her credentials for the job are, therefore, outstanding.

Barack Obama's decision to nominate Kim, a non-caucasian person, was predictable and callous. It betrays Obama's subsisting fears and continuing insecurities of being an African in charge of a caucasian-controlled country like the USA. Something that he betrays all too readily in the context of issues pertaining to Israel and Palestine. However, nominating a health expert, as opposed to an economic expert, is disrespectful to the world that the World Bank supposedly serves. If this is the political manner in which the institution will continue to be run going forward, then emerging economies should reconsider their continuing patronage of the institution and consider the possibility of creating an alternative.

Finally, it is time for the World Bank to respond to the major shift in the global economic power (in terms of resources, trade, investment and growth) from the west to the emerging economies of Africa, Asia and South America. The International Monetary Fund must also make this important shift the next time around. The shift is important because the reality facing these two outdated and oppressive institutions is that they must stay relevant (by adapting to the world around them) or die!

- Olu Omoyele

Saturday, January 28, 2012

NAIJA: between progress and chaos

The uneasy and illogical conglomeration that is Nigeria is again, as it has been many times in the past, on the brink of "something big" or as a Lagosian streetsmart person might say, a "big something"!  The question is of course whether what is impending is a big growth spurt fuelled by rapid industrialisation or a big fallout perpetuated in corruption and ignorance and from which a multifaceted and complex war might ensue.

The recent furore surrounding the question of oil subsidy removal or retention has been latched onto by many bloggers & commentators as proof that we, the Nigerians, are standing up for ourselves. That we will no longer tolerate poor leadership. This was of course not the case! People took to the streets because cost of living suddenly shot up significantly as a direct result of the oil subsidy removal. People had to pay a lot more for goods and services which they objected to of course and they blamed the political leadership for it. We did not take to the streets because we suddenly acquired a certain daringness or political savviness. We are a collection of soulful, yet misguided peoples with a penchant for celebration, hyperbole, jealousy, hero-worshipping and acceptance of mediocrity and we are being led, with our consent, by greedy fools.

Some go even further by warning President Jonathan to be cognisant of the recent events in Libya as a lesson and an example of what the people can unleash on his government. It is clear that some of us are suffering from the erroneous impression that popular uprising had anything to do with Gaddafi's assassination.

Please let me merely warn that it is the Nigerians, not Jonathan, who should be most fearful of the fallout that would emanate from an uncoordinated, disparate series of uprisings corrupt in it's very construction & philosophy!

Of course, as I have written previously, Jonathan, like Yar'adua before him, Buhari and the likes, is wholly unsuitable for the office that he currently holds, since he has neither the emotional intelligence nor the courage required for the role. However, since the very counter-productive nature of politics in Nigeria (one characterised mainly by US dollars and gangsterism) only managed to produce a bunch of idiots as the top candidates, the best outcome given the circumstances was a Jonathan victory; and it just so happens that that was what the majority of the people thought at the time.

Nigeria's predicaments must be understood against the backdrop of a complex history, a small but still powerful northern leadership clan intent on making the country ungovernable for Jonathan on account of his ethnicity; growing tensions about a seemingly-faceless but apparently politically-motivated series of bombings; continuing ineptitude in governance; rising socio-economic inequalities; a growing population of exhausted, disenfranchised, hopeless, and unfeeling youth; manipulative power-mad and money-hungry religious cabals and a largely illiterate population forced to operate in the information age.




I want to be all that I can be
To live freely but always on my own terms
The epitome of quiet but lively contentment
Free of ills and insecurities

I want to reach for the highest heights always
Never fearful, nor afraid of my possibilities
To be loved by the world is unimportant
But to be remembered surely is a thing of beauty

The minutes are rushing past like a flowing river
The days are hurriedly melting into weeks
Months morphing into decades
Increasing fear of stagnation amid the rush

I am, of course, but a weary soul
Alternating between irreconcilable firmaments
A mind filled with dreams of glory
Yet littered with lacerations of past pain

I long to become all that I can be
A man with only one limitation
Only one inhibition or bar to greatness
That is, the limits of my imagination

- Olu Omoyele