Who should run the World Bank now that Paul Wolfowitz has finally departed? The ideal candidate would have to bring a number of key attributes to the table, not least a wealth of financial experience and the gravitas to tussle with entrenched bureaucracy. A lack of association with the Bush Administration would also be a plus—foisting another of the US President’s sidekicks on the international organization wouldn’t be welcomed. How about a moderate from Bill Clinton’s time at the White House?
One name that pops up is Larry Summers. As a former Treasury secretary, he certainly has the financial credentials. He also knows his way around the World Bank, having worked there earlier in his career. And his stint as president of Harvard University taught him a thing or two about trying to change an institution’s deep-rooted inertia. He’s even got time on his hands—he only has a part-time job right now, at DE Shaw. Trouble is, he’s no stranger to controversy either. One of his brassier comments suggested that men might be innately cleverer than women, and ultimately led to his ouster from Harvard. The last thing the World Bank needs after the Wolfowitz brouhaha is a boss who suffers from occasional bouts of foot-in-mouth disease.
There is another option in the form of Summer’s predecessor at the Treasury. Robert Rubin, a former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs, has got all the required skills in spades. He also tends to be more diplomatic than his Clinton-era colleague. And it’s likely that he would also be a popular choice abroad—though of course that might count against him in the eyes of the White House.
What’s more, being offered the top job at the World Bank would grant Rubin a graceful exit from his current employer — underperforming, cost-cutting Citigroup isn’t the high-flying mega-bank he joined eight years ago. Of course, he may be loath to swap one stalling bureaucracy for another. But a call from the President would be tough to turn down.