Tag: World Bank

Legal Context and Government Defendants: Some Thoughts from Travel Bans, Patents, and Aircraft Subsidy Cases

This guest post is by Todd Tucker, PhD, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a research think tank connected to the FDR Presidential Library. He was previously a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on judicial politics, international political economy, and qualitative methods, and has been featured in Journal of International Dispute Settlement, International Studies Perspectives, and elsewhere. Follow him @toddntucker.

How much does the broader socioeconomic context matter in legal determinations involving sovereign defendants? Recent decisions from the Ninth Circuit of U.S. federal courts, World Bank arbitration arm, and World Trade Organization (WTO) illustrate a variety of approaches, with differing implications for policymaking.

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Political Homophobia in Uganda and a (Very) Belated Apology

In what I suspect is the least auspicious debut ever made by a Duck guest blogger, six months after being welcomed by the Duck team, I’m finally posting. It turns out that starting a new job, prepping a new course, learning how to shovel snow, and attempting to finish a book manuscript all at once is not particularly conducive to being a good guest blogger. I’d like to thank the Duck team for their patience, and for their completely unwarranted confidence in still welcoming me to blog here. And I promise to do better from here on out. 

As Charli noted, my area of interest is in questions at the intersection of conflict and development in Africa. I’m particularly fascinated these days by African states, how they (and their international relations) contrast with traditional understandings of what states are and what they do, and how people in conflict situations organize themselves to provide for community needs, with or without outside help. So it’s likely that most of my posts at the Duck will focus on these questions one way or another, as well as on general debates in the study of politics in Africa.

The biggest African story right now is the increasing criminalization of homosexuality and homosexual behavior in places like Uganda and Nigeria. Uganda’s new anti-homosexuality law has drawn the greatest amount of attention due to its extremely harsh penalties. Though the worst excesses of the bill’s original language (including the death penalty for those caught committing multiple homosexual  acts) were  amended out, the bill still provides for jail time for persons who engage in any form of physical content with “intent” to engage in homosexual acts as well as imprisonment for those who help or counsel GLBTQ Ugandans. Continue reading

Just a Physician? Jim Kim’s Candidacy for the World Bank

My colleague Kate Weaver has written a nuanced take on this blog on the race for the World Bank presidency, that whoever succeeds Robert Zoellick will have an especially tricky go of it ensuring the organization’s relevance at a time of fiscal austerity and changes in the global balance of power.

Since Kate’s post, opponents of the U.S. nominee Dr. Jim Kim, currently head of Dartmouth College and formerly head of the World Health Organization’s AIDS initiative, have become more vocal. There is something unseemly about the criticism being leveled against Dr. Kim, and for the record, I’d just like to tell some of those folks to quit making the wrong-headed, quasi defamatory case against Dr. Kim and make a stronger positive case for the other candidates. Jim Kim ain’t no Harriett Myers.

So, who am I thinking about? The Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, whose work on immigration I normally find quite appealing, issued this intemperate broadside, calling it a “terrible idea” and “It’s an embarrassment to the U.S.” He added for good measure that nominating Kim “is like picking the short stop for the New York Yankees out of the scrub leagues.” Bill Easterly, another economist whose take on foreign aid has added an important dose of realism to discussions of development, sought to parse the words of a 2000 co-authored book to paint Dr. Kim as an old school unreconstructed leftist. In the FT, Easterly opined: “Dr Kim would be the first World Bank president ever who seems to be anti-growth.”

Ok, So He’s Not an Economist
Guys, we get it. Dr. Kim isn’t an economist. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s current Finance Minister, is. She has a terrific pedigree, not only having served as the Managing Director of the Bank, but she is an MIT trained economist. Don’t get me wrong. I think Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is a fabulous candidate. She and I shared a panel at the Brookings Blum Roundtable several years ago, and she did a fantastic job talking about how she was able to use Nigeria’s oil revenue to negotiate a historic reduction in the country’s foreign debts. I have been rooting for her to be successful in Nigeria as the current finance minister and was saddened to hear how well-meaning efforts to address gas subsidies were misinterpreted as yet another sign of Nigerian government corruption. I also agree that the gentlemen’s agreement that divvies up the leadership of the World Bank and the IMF to the Americans and Europeans respectively is archaic.

Still, the knocks on Jim Kim have gone way too far. The third candidate Colombia’s former Finance Minister Mr. Ocampo said damningly with faint praise in the FT of Kim: “He is an excellent physician, nobody denies that, but we’re talking about a development institution.”

More like the Derek Jeter of Development

That’s rich. It’s as if the Obama Administration had nominated some no-named country doctor or “scrub league” short stop to the post. Here is a Harvard-trained MD & PhD who has worked at the grassroots level of development for many years, someone who founded one of the most successful and well-known health NGOs Partners in Health that has done heroic work in places like Haiti and Rwanda. Health has been an incredibly important sector of successful development experience over the last decade and perhaps the single most successful area of foreign aid over the last half-century. Before taking up the leadership mantle of late at Dartmouth, he was also the head of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization. All of these are important leadership positions, intimately related to the field of international development (ok, Dartmouth maybe not so much). He’s more like the Derek Jeter of development (okay, so the 3 by 5 initiative had a mixed record at the WHO but it’s a nice analogy).

If Dr. Kim criticized the growth agenda of the structural adjustment era, so what? This has all become mainstreamed into the Bank’s own philosophy of pro-poor growth.Does it take a PhD in Economics to run the World Bank successfully? If selected, Dr. Kim would be the leader with the most hands-on development experience that the Bank has ever possessed. He would be as or more experienced in the field as serious contenders that were mooted in advance like Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, or Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi (ok, maybe Larry Summers knows more but Summers always know more than anybody). As Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson pointed out on their blog Why Nations Fail: “Perhaps all of Mr. Kim’s critics prefer the status quo where the World Bank is run by ex-warmongers (Robert McNamara), bankers (James Wolfensohn) or career civil servants (Robert Zoelick). Wait wasn’t that the World Bank that they loved to criticize?”

I Come in Praise
You don’t have to denigrate Dr. Kim to praise the other candidates. The strongest case is that while Dr. Kim is a good candidate, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the dream candidate. She’s from a large developing country, knows the issue well, understands the complex world of global finance, and is intimately familiar with the culture and organization of the Bank. And, for her supporters, the changing nature of the international system has made this practice of the U.S. having the automatic right to appoint the Bank’s president an anachronism.

That said, I think there are two additional compelling reasons to support Dr. Kim over Okonjo-Iweala. First, I have strong worries that a Bank led by a non-American won’t get as much U.S. support (David Rothkopf has a nice column that encourages U.S policymakers to not be so miserly, but I’m not convinced Congress in its infinite wisdom will be that magnanimous.)

Second, as David Bosco tweeted, “If Okonjo-Iweala is as good as everyone says, couldn’t she do more lasting good as Nigerian minister than as WB prez?” Nigeria’s success is important for its population of 150 plus million, for the region, and for the African continent. I think she may be able to do more good for more people in that role.

Proponents of one candidate or another should recognize that we have three good candidates and argue about the merits, what the Bank needs at this juncture in its history, and refrain from the politics of destruction because that’s just petty and beneath the people who are making those arguments.

Power Shift in Global Economic Governance


Has the worm finally turned? Reuters today featured a story on the emerging market economies’ push-back against the status quo of Western-dominated global economic governance. The piece features an explicit demand (and overt exercise of financial leverage) for a power shift in the predominant international financial institutions, specifically in the context of the IMF’s recent request for an additional $600 billion in resources from its member states to help bail out Europe.

Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal is quoted in the story as saying:”What we can be certain of is that large developing nations will not agree to provide additional funds without a greater say in the IMF, and this applies to all global economic governance organizations.”

Interesting, the story also highlights the fact that emerging market economies, while demanding more voice and influence in the IFIs, are also turning away from existing international institutions in favor of regional alternatives, such as the Arab Monetary Fund and Islamic Development Bank in the Middle East and the Chiang Mai initiative in East Asia. This fact is neither new or shocking, but the tone of such a public speech is remarkable.

Ironically (or pathetically, depending how you look at it), there was also a recent news story that revealed that Obama is considering the nomination of Larry Summers as the next World Bank president when Robert Zoellick’s term expires in May 2012 (note: thanks to Martin Edwards for alerting me to this one). This would, oh so predictably: (1) sustain the stubborn Western tradition of keeping an American at helm of the World Bank (and by corollary, a European at the head of the Fund); (2) uphold the image of the Bretton Woods institutions as being first and foremost accountable to the Wall Street-Treasury complex, and (3) continue to alienate the very countries upon whose financial generosity these institutions will increasingly depend in the coming years.

Martin Edwards and I are conspiring on an op-ed on that little tidbit of information and its implications for the legitimacy and relevance of the World Bank, so stay tuned.

Will Transparency Save the World Bank?

I confess that I am a World Bank junkie. There is nothing (well, very little) that perks my intellectual interest more than an in-depth discussion on the internal and external politics of the Bank. Over the past two weeks in DC, I have mercilessly subjected my graduate students to numerous conversations about the challenges facing the organization with experts within the Bank, US Senate, and the world of NGOs and think tanks. To my fabulous students, I want to say thanks for letting me nerd-out. To faithful Duck readers, I’d like to pose a few questions about the future of the Bank that arose from these conversations.

Fellow Bank-junkies will undoubtedly have caught the big story about the World Bank’s Open Data Revolution in the New York Times on July 3. The story aptly captures the Bank’s current crisis:

“…while the I.M.F. is busy with scandal and the debt crisis now shaking Europe, officials at the World Bank’s headquarters here are confronting some existential questions, including the big one: What exactly are we doing here?”

Indeed, for well over a decade the Bank has been struggling with a tripartite challenge of waning relevance, questioned effectiveness, and challenged legitimacy. In response, the Bank has sought to redefine its identity from a lending Bank to a Knowledge Bank. In so doing, the Bank hopes to redefine its comparative advantage and raison d’etre in an increasingly crowded and competitive field of development funders, generating influence and authority as much from its expertise as the (waning) power of its purse.

And I have to say that in the last year, the Bank’s transformation has been remarkable. A few months ago, the Bank finally passed its revised information disclosure policy, moving from a highly restrictive policy that listed what could be disclosed to a much more liberal policy that presumes everything is open unless explicitly exempted (hallelujah!). It also created free public access to a wealth of development data, including the World Development Indicators. Moreover, it is now possible to quickly find extensive information on the World Bank’s projects and programs, complete with links to project documents on its project portal page. The World Bank has even starting geomapping its aid programs (thanks in large part to the groundbreaking work of AidData and Development Gateway). Not surprisingly, the World Bank has in turned earned high marks for its efforts, including top scores in Publish What You Fund’s Aid Transparency Assessment and the Center for Global Development’s Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA).

But for the moment I have a few questions regarding the impact of this Transparency Revolution on the future of the World Bank (and I’m sure I’ll have more questions later):

First, how can transparency be effectively turned into an accountability tool? We have yet to see how the opening of the data floodgates at the Bank will (in development parlance) “empower stakeholders.” This will depend not so much on the accessibility of data as the usability of data, as noted by the Aleem Walji, the Bank’s guru for Open Data. To paraphrase the words of one close observer, open data could be like the race car that no one can drive. How will we know the real impact of the open data revolution? Hint: it won’t be through the number of hits to the website or the download count.

Second, will the Bank’s new and improved transparency, as well as its efforts to “democratize” its governance, solicit sustained political support, particularly from its biggest donor? We’re in the midst of the FY2012 Budget Request and it includes a big call for a General Capital Increase for the World Bank and other multilateral development banks. But the general sentiment in DC is that this is going to be a hard sell. The World Bank (in contrast to some of the other MDBs and bilateral aid agencies) is held in high esteem, but there is little political support on the Hill for development aid and multilateralism in general.

Third, will the Bank’s progress in reestablishing its legitimacy via its transparency revolution translate into a revival of its relevance? I ask this because there is a deeper underlying problem regarding the need for the Bank today. Global financial crisis notwithstanding, the demand for the Bank’s (and other aid agencies’) loans and services is quickly waning in most areas of the world, with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa. Many middle income countries are now graduating from the International Development Agency (IDA), the Bank’s soft loan window. Their need (and desire) for funds to help support infrastructure and other development projects can be easily met by private capital markets, which offer rates similar to the IBRD (the Bank’s hard-loan window) without all the conditions and safeguard requirements. More critically, new non-OECD DAC donors – most notably China, as well as large foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – provide would-be borrowers with many other options besides the traditional multilateral and bilateral lenders. Knowledge Bank aside, can the Bank continue to exist with its current mandate, staff and structure without demand for its core lending business?

Finally, for your amusement, a completely unrelated observation offered by one of our speakers about the contrasting cultures and internal debate within the IMF and World Bank:

“The Fund is arrogant, superior, and like the Borg. If you put five Fund staffers in a room, only one will speak. The Bank, on the other hand, is unfocused, undisciplined, squishy. If you put five Bank staffers in a room, they will all speak at once.”

(And no, that flattering comparison did not come from our NGO speaker. It came from from someone who worked within both of the institutions….)

Revolution, Revolution until Victory

‎”… Yet the crowds were not placated, and they spent the next hour in the courtyard repeating the classic songs of the uprising, “thowra thowra huta nasr” (revolution, revolution until victory).” –Al Jazeera (4/25/2011)

The revolution which overthrew Hosni Mubarak is in danger. While Western media outlets have given primacy in their coverage of events to speculative discussions about the historic, current, and future role of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the pivotal role of the Egyptian military, it is the organizations representing the rights of factory workers and allied leftist youth that actually did the heavy lifting from an organizational perspective before and during the revolution (see for example the April 6th Youth Movement). Thus, it is these same groups (whose demands include nationalizing textile factories, improving safety conditions, increasing wages for workers, and a maximum wage for the owners of capital) which will need to be addressed alongside more established political organizations if enduring stability is to be achieved.

But the demands of the workers are scarcely likely to be met given the severe economic challenges which lie ahead for Egypt and the broader global economic context in which this revolution is unfolding. The government has already turned to the IMF for $10-12 billion in financial assistance and $2.2 billion from the World Bank, citing a dramatic decline in revenue from the vital but perennially endangered tourism industry and a wave of worker strikes in recent months. Given the neo-liberal economic ideology and decisionist (Schmittian) political outlook toward developing countries that is prevalent among the Western governments that dominate the Executive Boards of the Bretton Woods institutions, as well as with military leaders and comprador economic elites in deveoping countries, the Egyptian state will undoubtedly face external pressure to repress worker demands. In fact, foreign pressure will most likely be used as a welcome opportunity by comprador elites to pursue preferred policies while placing the blame for repression on an external bogeyman.

As with many other developing countries, Egypt has a complex and politicized history of relations with the IMF (not to mention an even longer and more sordid history of sovereign debt to Western creditors prior to WWII). At times the historical narrative about Egypt-IMF relations has focused almost exclusively on the 1977 food riots that followed an attempt at structural adjustment during the Sadat regime. This narrative has usually been oversimplified by left leaning academics who have all too willingly bought into the military regime’s account of the structural adjustment program as a moral lesson in the political shortsightedness of the mandarins at the Fund and the inhumanity of a ruthless and disembedded neoliberal economic ideology. (In point of fact and as we now know, it was the military regime which proposed cutting food subsidies when the Fund had recommended slashing the unsustainable military budget). An overemphasis on that moment risks ignoring all of the efforts since then to implement neoliberal strategies of privatization, liberalization, and integration — half-hearted, illusory, and lackluster though they may have been.

If we look beyond the kabuki theater of the state’s relations with the Fund and neoliberalism more broadly, we can see that prospects for meeting the workers’ demands and reviving the textile industry, which constitutes about a quarter of both industrial employment and industrial production, are unlikely to emerge through neoliberal strategies. The current challenge to Egypt’s textile industry goes back to the phase out of the GATT/WTO textile quota regime in 2004 and the beginning of genuine global competition. Egypt’s textile industry which is characterized by low productivity simply could not compete against Chinese textile firms. Egypt was able to gain some breathing room by signing on to a tri-lateral preferential trade agreement (the QIZ) with Israel and the US, but the political climate in Gaza and the West Bank has hardly made this a robust alternative for Egypt.

If Egypt hopes to compete against China, it will need to study China’s reform of its own textile sector in the nineties which laid the ground work for its return to profitability in 2000.  The short version of the story is that China cut 2.7 million employees out of 7 million, closed 600 state-owned firms (1/5th of the total), suffered billions in losses while it restructured and updated equipment (Lardy 2002, 23). The real question is what enabled the state and society to endure this restructuring? The answer is far more complex than can be covered here, but at the very least it seems apparent that a set of economic strategies designed to winnow the state is the wrong path to take. To the contrary, the East Asian “model” generally points to the importance of strengthening state capacity in order to compete in the global marketplace. However, while such strategies are often anchored by nationalist ideology, they are rarely kind to the interests and radicalized demands of workers.

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