Buggins Turn. Or how Jim Yong Kim was appointed to lead The World Bank over Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

April 19, 2012

A consensus formed that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was the best-qualified candidate to take the World Bank forward. However, the ‘Buggins turn’ arrangements for leadership guaranteed that President Obama would nominate an American for the post. His candidate Dr Jim Yong Kim, was the successful one

An editorial from The Nation examines Dr Okonjo-Iweala credentials.

Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former managing director of the World Bank and Nigeria’s current minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, is the best candidate for the job of World Bank president.

She not only rose to the rank of managing director of the Bank, even the most dyed-in-the-wool Western media are testifying that she is a better candidate for the job than her two rivals, Colombia’s Jose Anthonio Ocampo and President Barack Obama’s American nominee, Jim Yong Kim, a professor of public health. She has worked in every World Bank region of the world: Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Middle East, Africa and of course, Breton Woods headquarters itself, Washington. Besides, she has all the crucial mix to be a good fit: a good and rounded understanding of development through fiscal issues related to micro and macro-economics, sectoral issues like education, manufacturing, health and development agenda issues like gender, women and children, not to mention enterprise, business development and infrastructure.

This set of attributes are to be found within a negative view expressed of the impact Dr Okonjo-Iweala has had as a politician in Nigeria, blaming her as “an agent of the West” for the unpopular and contentious policy removing fuel subsidy recently.

Two distinguished subscribers to LWD were asked to comment on the credentials of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Dr Jeffery Ramsbottom noted

I have been mightily impressed with her progress in the World Bank and in Nigeria over the years. Recent articles support this view. The Economist [ 31 March 2012] had a leader entitled “Hats off to Ngozi”. She had her own piece in the FT’s editorial page page on Tuesday 10 April which was not unimpressive and entitled “My vision for a World Bank that serves everyone”. President Obama He probably rushed out his nomination last week to pre-empt the charge by his potential Presidential candidate opponents of presiding over the decline of American influence in the world.

Dr Pikay Richardson noted

Yes, Ngozi has achieved remarkable progress at the World Bank. Highly qualified and very experienced with regard to the workings of the Bank and its territorial demands, she has proven herself.

Buggins Turn

For all the enthusiasm for the capabilities of Dr Okonjo-Iweala, the result has demonstrated the old principle of Buggins Turn. THis well-established piece of English terminology is attributed to Admiral Lord Fisher (ca 1901) to refer to the policy of appointing Government officials according to the principle of length of tenure rather than of competence. It has comed to mean appointment by any long-standing arrangements regardless of merit. Buggins’ turn decrees that the Presidency of the World Bank to be awarded to an American, and that of the International Monetary Fund to go to a European.

Will this weaken the Buggins Turn system in the future?

Possibly. The Buggins Turn appointments to date have not appeared to have left a legacy of successful leadership

Image of Dr Okonjo-Iweala is from The Nation, a leading newspaper dedicated to supporting in Nigeria “a return to fundamental principles of federalism, believing that it is the arrangement that can best advance the multifarious interests of citizens in a country of many nations and faiths.” The image of Dr Jim Yong Kim is from his wikipedia entry.