Back Bono

The President of the World Bank Paul Wolfensohn retires on June 1. Three main contenders to replace him are activist Bono (aka Paul Hewson) of Ireland, Paul Wolfowitz who is currently US Assistant Secretary of Defense and Carly Fiorina who is former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, both of the United States.

The Back Bono Living Petition invites individuals globally to add their names and show support for a new and ecologically and socially sane direction for the Bank, which has been the consistent target of activists worldwide. An activist head of the Bank sends a very clear message that the age of rape and pillage of the Earth is over, and that ecological and social indicators will now be taken seriously at the Bank. See also biosecurity bank for a related more radical proposal.

A print version will be at Back Bono petition also.

US decline

The post has traditionally always been held by an American. However, the US dollar decline and calls for monetary reform and oil exchange changes to rely less on the US dollar as a medium of exchange especially in energy exchange or standard of deferred payment especially in developed nation debt (no one wants to be owed in a declining currency), as marked by the shift of the yuan off the dollar to a mixed currency basket, have opened the possibility of a non-US President for this central economic institution. Possibly only the IMF and BIS are more central to central banks.

help developing nations

The World Bank's influence is primarily on developing nations. Of the three candidates, Bono/Hewson is clearly the most focused on the needs of poorer nations, being a very prominent spokesperson for global debt relief and for crises in Africa. Paul O'Neil, former Bush Treasury Secretary (now very estranged) toured Africa with Bono recently.

John Snow, current US Treasury Secretary "said Bono is rational, influential, and an idealist. Although the world knows him as a rock star, his knowledge of the golden rules of development makes him a star in international development as well." - report at zaman.com.

Bono has a BA from Harvard in economics - got only a few
years ago - meaning that his classmates are now slightly experience and ready to be hired into the Bank... though Bono's appointment could be seen as basically a Harvard
takeover of the World Bank, that is probably required to retain trust and contacts in the US Administration when a post historically always held by an American goes to an Irishman.

The US may see Bono as a figurehead on the Harvard crowd, which is acceptable as it's still ultimately a US friendly body. Bono is also a lobbyist, more than activist - he is not US-hostile as some other candidates including most from actual developing nations might be. Even if he is "under control" due to Harvard ties, he has UN friends including Paul Martin and Ralph Goodale, and comes across basically as a tame developed-world candidate without strong economic principles who can be easily spun as "just a rock star" when the US disagrees. He has no big constituency among economists like Stiglitz, Shiva, or Sen, all of whom would be much more threatening to the status quo.

neoconservative focused on Muslim nations

By contrast, Wolfowitz is a neoconservative who is a strict devotee of neoclassical economics as practiced by the Bush Administration. He has furthermore enraged and embarassed even close Bush allies like Anthony Blair by admitting publicly that the US simply chose one of many possible rationales to advance to invade Iraq in 2003, and that there was no compelling case based on weapons of mass destruction. This caused Blair a great deal of difficulty as his own case to the UK Labour Party had been entirely based on the credibility of these claims. That said, Wolfowitz is at least known as honest - too honest for Blair's liking.

a business focused article at iht.com reports that
Wolfowitz is under "serious consideration" for the post, the new favourite of the bush administration now that Robert Zoellick will be filling in as deputy secretary of state. He also says the Europeans are likely to veto.

He would be expected to back Richard Perle and David Frum in prioritizing the Muslim World for development aid. Perle and Frum advocated US spending on education, includingIslamic education, that went beyond rote drills in the Qur'an to embrace more liberal trends and to actually teach math, science, and the proud history of Islamic civilization - which included more effective tactics for winning than suicide bombing.

However, Bush's Treasury Secretary John Snow and the UN Commission for Africa appears to favour Bono and a focus on Africa, whose problems more affect the world at large: deforestation, extinction, disease, civil war, genocide, overpopulation. The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Wangari Maathai may have been a test balloon for much "greener" global institutions.

It is also possible that Wolfowitz is a mere straw man: He is someone that the administration can basically say is an extremist even in their own ranks, and shrug off him being refused. He might be vetoed by the European Union. Even in the job, his powers would be limited other than perhaps in relationships with the Muslim world where he'd be expected to play hardball with nations like Syria and Iran which the Bush Administration targets as rogue nations.

The G7 and especially the G20 would however block many such moves. Not even the UK would clear the way for him. Wolfowitz may simply be a way to retain the post in US hands and test what remains of US power to use it for US policy goals.

executive technocrat

Carly Fiorina as President of HP had a very mixed record. She was widely criticized for autocratic rule and glory-seeking at HP, and also often blamed for destroying that company's unique engineering culture. She has no background in international development whatsoever, though HP has dealings with governments in many nations worldwide, and her operations and CIO contacts would be excellent.

She might be effective at breaking up the World Bank's cult of economism, but, would likely not help it in regaining credibility with activists and the developing nations. She would be an internal operationally focused candidate, ultimately, perhaps helping institute some intranet improvements to make the World Bank more effective. She'd be a fine consultant - but why President?

As with Wolfowitz she may be a lame duck put up to make it easy to approve a non-US World Bank President without humiliation to Bush personally. Rejecting them would
not look like rejecting Bush or the US, it'd look like rejecting neocon trolling and high-tech trolling from technocrats.

someday is now: BACK BONO

The endorsement from John Snow says it all: the US is ready to give up the World Bank President job, and as a formality, they offer two sacrificial victims, neither of
whom would be taken seriously by the world ,or have any real influence... People who seem to be there on the candidacy list to admit that there are serious needs for a development strategy to lead the Muslim world towards more conventional prosperity, and away from "oil and bombs", and, to admit that the World Bank needs culture changes.

alternatives to Bono

If Bono is eliminated from consideration for some reason or wishes to back another candidate, there are several serious alternatives: Joseph Stiglitz, Vandana Shiva, Marilyn Waring, Amartya Sen are all notable critics of World Bank culture with extremely high credibility. Joshka Fischer would also be exceptional in such a post - but is already so well placed it's hard to imagine anyone replacing him in his vital role as German Foreign Minister.

In the campaign for monetary reform there are many long shots with much to offer: Herman Daly, Robert Costanza, David Korten, Amory Lovins, Paul Werbos, Paul Hawken, Hernando De Soto, Mikhail Gorbachev, Lester Thurow. Far less influence than Bono, however, despite their quite solid process activism.

Known trolls who might also influence things for the better if nominated, though they are unlikely to win: Ron Dembo, Ralph Nader, Craig Hubley, David Suzuki, Thierry Gaudin and Rushworth Kidder.