NEW YORK – The selection of a successor to Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank was supposed to initiate a new era of open meritocratic competition, breaking the traditional hold that the United States has had on the job. Indeed, Zoellick’s own appointment was widely regarded as “illegitimate” from that perspective. But US President Barack Obama has let the world down even more distressingly with his nomination of Jim Yong Kim for the post.
To begin with, it should have been clear that a most remarkable candidate – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – was already at hand. She had impressive credentials: degrees in economics from Harvard and MIT, experience working on a wide variety of development issues as a managing director of the World Bank, and stints as Finance Minister and Foreign Minister of Nigeria. (She also possesses and has amply demonstrated that rarest of qualities: a willingness to fight corruption at the expense of her job.)
Moreover, Okonjo-Iweala is witty, articulate, and no wimp when it comes to taking on shoddy arguments. She is a dream candidate to lead the World Bank.
What, then, does Obama’s choice tell us about the sincerity of his feminist rhetoric? Does he draw the line wherever it suits him? In fact, if Obama and his advisers could not stomach Okonjo-Iweala on the ground that she is not American, surely they could have nominated an American woman who was also vastly superior to Kim for the job.