Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs of Columbia University speaks about potential geopolitical implications of the financial crisis at a panel discussion at Pace University in New York on October 16, 2009. Reuters/Nicholas Roberts
Editor’s Note: Jeffrey Sachs’s candidacy for World Bank president has drawn the backing of a number of progressives, who laud his focus on ending extreme poverty and hunger and improving agricultural outcomes in developing countries. Should we throw our support behind Sachs? John Cavanagh, director of the Institute of Policy Studies, and Robin Broad, professor of international development at American University, argue that his approach to development sounds good but remains flawed. Jeffrey Sachs himself responded. Immediately below, we’ve published Round Two. In this round, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and president of Just Foreign Policy, who has supported Sachs’s candidacy, responds to Cavanagh and Broad.
Why We Are Still Not Supporting Jeffrey Sachs to be World Bank President
Even today, Sachs’s approach to development remains top-down and formulaic.
by John Cavanagh and Robin Broad on March 20, 2012
Thanks to The Nation for creating the forum for this important dialogue on the World Bank presidency and also to Jeffrey Sachs for participating. Progressives should not expect that we will always march together to one song; we should savor the venues like this where we can debate as allies. We appreciate the many comments that have been posted and others that were sent to us privately.
We will use our limited “rebuttal” space to respond to two key issues.
Some progressives are urging us all to be more “strategic,” to support Sachs for World Bank president because he is better than possible Obama pick Larry Summers. We agree that Summers would be a terrible choice to head the Bank and, indeed, have joined tens of thousands to sign a petition to the Obama administration opposing his candidacy. However, the deadline for governments to announce their candidates is not until March 23. By then, several governments will nominate Sachs. The United States will announce a candidate. And, other governments may nominate someone else. After that point, it will be important for progressives around the world to debate who, if anyone, deserves our support. Before the 23rd, we believe that one productive strategic role for progressives is to critique the traditional presumption that Americans will support the European choice for the IMF head and Europeans will back the US choice at the Bank, virtually assuring that the rich countries get their way. We commend the Bretton Woods Project for their open letter arguing for a reformed selection process.
So too do we think it strategic for progressives to put forward the best candidates from across the globe, candidates with the qualifications to run a large organization and with the vision, humility, sensibility, and ability to listen to the 99 percent—all necessary to transform the Bank. Since we wrote our initial piece, dozens of people have sent us such names: Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, former UNDP head Gus Speth, urban poor advocate Sheela Patel, Greenpeace International chair Kumi Naidoo, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter, former Brazilian president Lula, and ActionAid International head Joanna Kerr, among others. Any could be a great leader of the Bank, but people and governments hesitate to put “best” names forward so long as the US-European grip on the selection process continues. If US progressives spent as much time promoting a “best” candidate as they are backing Sachs, that person might take-off as a candidate. Such a “best-person” list also presses those who are running to prove they match such high credentials, not that they are better than the worst.