Larry Summers looks like the wrong man for the World Bank – so what about our Don?

Alf today is launching a campaign to secure a new job for Don Brash, who – like all but one candidate in the ACT team – failed to win a seat in Parliament at the general election in November.

Don would be just the bloke to run the World Bank.

The job is up for grabs later this year.

President Barack Obama – according to a Bloomberg report spotted by your widely read member for Eketahuna North – may put his mark on the World Bank by nominating Lawrence Summers when Robert Zoellick’s term expires later this year.

Summers is Obama’s former National Economic Council director.

Bloomberg’s sources were “two people familiar with the matter”.

While a Summers nomination may draw criticism from some Democrats who disagree with his past stances on deregulating the financial industry, he has support inside the administration from top officials, including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current NEC Director Gene Sperling, said one of the people.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also being considered, along with other candidates, said the other person.

A bloke named Lael Brainard, the US Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, is compiling a list of potential candidates to replace Zoellick.

It is a tradition for the US president to choose the leader of the World Bank while European leaders select the head of the International Monetary Fund.

The nomination must be approved by the World Bank’s executive board.

Summers, 57, is now a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

But at Reuters, blogger Felix Salmon has got his claws out.

He advises Obama not to nominate Summers because:

It’s a dreadful idea.

For one thing, Summers wouldn’t actually be very good at the job, since he doesn’t have any of the required qualifications.

The only way to be an effective World Bank president is to be an effective diplomat.

Salmon points out you also need to be an almost superhuman manager, because the World Bank has more than 10,000 employees from over 160 countries, with offices in more than 100 countries around the world.

The range of cultural expectations they bring to their jobs is truly enormous, and the amount of political jostling and mutual incomprehension which results is entirely predictable. In order to manage this rabble, you need a very high level of cultural and interpersonal sensitivity.

Then there’s leadership and the ability to get your organization to line up behind how you think the Bank — and, for that matter, the World — should work.

Summers is not known for his work on global poverty reduction, and his previous tenure at the World Bank is remembered mainly for the pollution memo — an “ironic” proposal to increase pollution in poor countries, which resulted in the label “perfectly logical but totally insane” being attached to Summers for many years thereafter.

The memo, for the record, said:

‘Dirty’ Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Least Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

He proceeded to lay them out.

The first was a matter of minimising health costs: measurements of the costs of health-impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. Hence a given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages.

“I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”

You can read the second and third reasons for yourself here.

Salmon goes on to remind us that Summers himself is the first to admit he’s no diplomat. Moreover, he spectacularly couldn’t run Harvard University, when given that job.

But most important, from the point of view of nominating Don Brash, Salmon argues that giving the World Bank job to any American is a bad idea.

We’re long past the point at which it makes any sense at all that the president of the World Bank should always be an American, and I was quite heartened, back in 2009, when a trial balloon was floated suggesting that Obama might appoint Lula, or Manmohan Singh, to the job. My own favored candidate would be Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala — she should ideally have got the job back in 2007, but better late than never. And accepting it would give her a gracious way of departing her current gig, which doesn’t seem to be going so well.

This sounds thoroughly compelling, except that Alf would struggle to properly pronounce the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, should she get the job and he have cause to mention the World Bank and its boss during an economic debate in Parliament.

But it’s easy to say “Don Brash”.

Don’t forget that Brash has experience as a politician (before becoming Leader of the ACT Party he was a National MP who became leader of the opposition in 2003).

He has a wide background in public policy and chaired the Government’s 2025 Taskforce, charged with investigating the reasons for the recent decline in New Zealand’s productivity performance.

Oh, and don’t forget he had five years in Washington working for the World Bank, so he is familiar with that outfit.

On the business side, he was head of Broadbank Corporation, the managing director of the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority and the managing director of Trust Bank.

And before entering Parliament he was Reserve Bank Governor from 1988-2002.

Not just any old central banker. The Economist once described Brash as the “world’s best central banker.”

The case for sending Brash to Washington is solid. Mrs Grumble has already drafted a letter to Lael Brainard, to be copied to President Obama…

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