Larry Summers has been unnaturally silent on President Obama’s surprise decision to pass him over for the World Bank presidency in favor of Dartmouth University president and public health hero Jim Yong Kim. Well, one of Summers’ closest chums at Harvard’s Kennedy School, Lant Pritchett, has now gone public with a scorching blast at Kim. Pritchett told Forbes magazine, “It’s an embarrassment to the U.S. You cannot with a straight face say this person is the most qualified to lead the World Bank.”
It was Pritchett, while working under Summers at the World Bank in 1991, who drafted the embarrassing memo that Summers signed on the supposed economic benefits of exporting polluting industries to third world countries. Pritchett later contended that the leaked parts of the memo were doctored to omit his ironic intent. The full memo never surfaced. Pritchett took the fall for Summers’ embarrassment when he was up for the presidency of Harvard. So, it’s fair to say these senior and junior colleagues are close.
Now, it’s possible that Pritchett went public with his startling comments about Dr. Kim without Larry Summers’ consent or knowledge. It’s also possible that subprime bonds are a terrific investment, and that the Red Sox will sweep this year’s World Series.
Pritchett’s critique comes from a place of perceived authority. Kim isn’t a member of the economics club, and therefore is unworthy. If that doesn’t sum up Larry Summers’ worldview…
Dr. Kim himself has spoken out in a Financial Times op-ed, articulating his vision for the World Bank, which has substantial responsibility in global development rather than simply finance.
My own life and work have led me to believe that inclusive development – investing in human beings – is an economic and moral imperative. I was born in South Korea when it was still recovering from war, with unpaved roads and low levels of literacy. I have seen how integration with the global economy can transform a poor country into one of the most dynamic and prosperous economies in the world. I have seen how investment in infrastructure, schools and health clinics can change lives. And I recognise that economic growth is vital to generate resources for investment in health, education and public goods.
Every country must follow its own path to growth, but our collective mission must be to ensure that a new generation of low and middle-income countries enjoys sustainable economic growth that generates opportunities for all citizens.
What a scrub! What an economic illiterate!
Kim also promises to give developing nations a “greater voice” in the World Bank’s affairs. This is his true opposition for the position, not the taunts of Summers’ pals. Kim will have to win a majority of the World Bank board to get the position, and a number of emerging countries are forwarding their own candidates. It’s very likely that Kim will win, however, much to the chagrin, apparently, of Larry Summers. Wahh wahh wahh.