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The Neoliberal Ways Of The World Bank May Be Numbered If Jeffrey Sachs Becomes Its President

9:40 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

When World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced that he would step down at the end of his five-year term in June, calls were made for his successor to be selected based on merit this time, rather than on nationality, as has been the custom for the past 68 years.

Whereas the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director has always been a European, the World Bank’s President has always been an American. Though the U.S. is indeed the institution’s biggest funder and largest shareholder, its finances are paid by taxpayers around the world.

The moment Zoellick made his announcement last January, the Obama Administration indicated it had every intention of inserting an American as the new President. At a briefing on Feb. 21 , State Dept. Spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated, “Our expectation is that we will nominate a strong American candidate and we will put our full backing behind that person.”

After Nuland ruled out Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a possible successor, several other top contenders’ names have been floated around.

These include Former Obama Economic Adviser and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice (who has also been rumored to be Clinton’s likely replacement as Secretary of State), PepsiCo Inc CEO Indra Nooyi, and Sen. John Kerry (note: his spokesperson said he was not interested, and had never even been contacted about it).

If Rice does in fact have her eyes on State, this would leave Summers and Nooyi as two ‘short-listed’ contenders. The Chicago Tribune listed the pros and cons of Summers and Nooyi:

Lawrence Summers:

Sources within the World Bank and the Obama administration said that while Summers has excellent credentials, he also has political baggage.

While president of Harvard University, he created a firestorm by suggesting women may have a lower aptitude for science and engineering. He is also remembered for a memo he wrote in 1991 when he was the World Bank’s top economist that laid out the economic logic of dumping toxic waste in developing countries.

By selecting Summers, Obama “would have to use political capital” with his liberal base and women’s groups, the source with knowledge of the administration’s thinking said.

Indra Nooyi:

Nooyi, the Indian-born chief executive of PepsiCo, has been under pressure from investors for a stagnating stock price. She recently laid out a plan to turn around the company’s North American soft drink business and took responsibility for management missteps. PepsiCo spokesman Peter Land declined to comment on whether she would be interested in the World Bank job.

If Obama chose a woman, he would be breaking the mold for a job that has always been held by a white male, a move that could garner support from developing nations.

But as the White House vets its candidates, it is facing international pressure to democratize the selection process. The fastest emerging economies, including China, Russia, India, Brazil, and S. Africa have coalesced to end this 70 year old passport-as-determining-factor tradition.

They were so appalled at how Europe arrogantly moved to replace the IMF head last year with one of its own, despite pleas to open the process, that they have responded more forcefully this time with Zoellick’s announcement. They have every intention of nominating some stellar candidates of their own to fill the impending vacancy.

Well, one American Economist, Jeffrey Sachs, who is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and serves as Adviser to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has helped to make this a true contest. He has thrown his hat into the ring, albeit his nomination didn’t come from the U.S. He has been nominated by Kenya, Malaysia, Jordan, Namibia, Bhutan and East Timor.

And in stark contrast to outgoing President (Bush-appointee) Zoellick, who had been a former Managing Dir. of Goldman Sachs, Jeffrey Sachs considers ’Neoliberal’ a dirty word (as demonstrated by his Tweeted response to one critic’s accusation):

Lamat Rising ‏ @lamat_rising: Jeffrey Sachs shouldn’t become World Bank prez. His neoliberal record in Latin America + Eastern Europe is a disgrace even 4 WB #EP #US

Jeffrey D. Sachs‏ @JeffDSachs: @lamat_rising Neoliberal??? What a joke. I led the debt cancellation campaign. I fought the IMF and Treasury in Russia, and lost.

Here is how he distinguishes himself from traditional World Bank Presidents:

Unlike previous World Bank presidents, I don’t come from Wall Street or U.S. politics. I am a practitioner of economic development, a scholar and a writer. My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, not with a corporate balance sheet or a government. Yet the solutions work for all — the poor, companies, governments and the rest of us — by creating a more prosperous, healthy and secure world.

Sachs has the full support of Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), who is circulating a letter on his behalf to President Obama. Current signatories include John Conyers, Hansen Clarke, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Jim McGovern, Lynn Woolsey, Raul Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Keith Ellison, Robert Brady, Rubén Hinojosa, Peter DeFazio, Steve Cohen, Maxine Waters, and Bob Filner.

Mark Weisbrot, in his piece yesterday in The Guardian (which I highly recommend reading), highlighted some of the World Bank’s disgraceful policies over the last 15 years. He then explains why Sachs is the right guy to help turn the institution around:

The bank could … play a positive role by increased financing of urgent development needs such as health, education, and sustainable agriculture. In these areas, Jeffrey Sachs has a proven track record over the past decade. He has played an important role in supporting the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has saved millions of lives in poor countries. His Millennium Villages project has also provided a significant positive example of how development aid can be used to boost agricultural productivity and health outcomes. This is an important refutation of the widespread cynicism that helps limit the financing of real, positive development aid.

Sachs has also been a strong advocate for debt cancellation in poor countries. His 2008 book Common Wealth provides one of the best overviews of the interrelated problems of climate change, development, poverty, population and health – as well as a set of concrete proposals for addressing them. This is clearly someone who has the knowledge, ideas, and experience to lead the bank in a different direction. … As Sachs noted last week:

“US officials have traditionally viewed the World Bank as an extension of United States foreign policy and commercial interests. … Many projects have catered to US corporate interests rather than to sustainable development.”

But Weisbrot believes ‘Sachs is facing an uphill battle,’ being an election year. Many of Obama’s biggest contributors happen to be the Wall Street banks and corporations that have millions at stake in the World Bank. They will obviously want another one of their Neoliberal bank cronies to man the top spot.

World Bank officials will be accepting nominations for Zoellick’s successor until March 23rd.

WATCH: CNN’s recent interview with Jeffrey Sachs

TAKE ACTION: Ask your Congressperson to Sign John Conyers Letter Pressing Obama to Name Sachs to World Bank (The deadline to sign Conyers letter to Obama is COB Monday, March 12.)

UPDATE:

Thought it only fair to post a quote from Naomi Klein, who in her book, The Shock Doctrine, critiqued Neoliberal policies that Sachs had overseen in places like Poland and Russia. She was asked in 2007, if she believed Sachs was merely re-branding his image, or had truly changed:

A lot of people are under the impression that Jeffrey Sachs has renounced his past as a shock therapist and is doing penance now. But if you read The End of Poverty more closely he continues to defend these policies, but simply says there should be a greater cushion for the people at the bottom.

The real legacy of neoliberalism is the story of the income gap. It destroyed the tools that narrowed the gap between rich and poor. The very people who opened up this violent divide might now be saying that we have to do something for the people at the very bottom, but they still have nothing to say for the people in the middle who’ve lost everything.

This is really just a charity model. Jeffrey Sachs says he defines poverty as those whose lives are at risk, the people living on a dollar a day, the same people discussed in the Millennium Development Goals. Of course that needs to be addressed, but let us be clear that we’re talking here about noblesse oblige, that’s all.

Just thought I should put it out there, since I have a world of respect for Naomi Klein and her opinions on the matter.

Originally published at AlterPolitics

Why Has Bill Clinton Gone ‘Jimmy Carter’ On Israel?

5:34 am in Uncategorized by TheCallUp

Former President Bill Clinton — a favorite both in Israel, and amongst pro-Israel supporters here in the US — recently made an abrupt shift in his public statements on Israel, breaking completely from the dominant ‘neo-conservative, inner-beltway’ narrative on US foreign policy in the Middle East.

First, Clinton created an uproar in the Israeli government when he took aim at the Israel Defense Forces, and in particular the extreme elements that make up an increasing number of those serving:

“An increasing number of the young people in the IDF (Israel Defense Force) are the children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land. This presents a staggering problem,” Clinton said. “It’s a different Israel. Sixteen percent of Israelis speak Russian.” [...]

Clinton called the Russian immigrant population in Israel the group least interested in a peace deal with the Palestinians. “They’ve just got there, it’s their country, they’ve made a commitment to the future there,” Clinton said. “They can’t imagine any historical or other claims that would justify dividing it.”

The former president added that those who have been in Israel the longest and “have the benefit of historical context” were those most supportive of peace in Israel. “They can imagine sharing a future,” he said.

Clinton added that he feared this growing extremist element within the IDF would make it very difficult for Israel to deal with the half-million illegal settlers in the West Bank — something essential for any future peace agreement with the Palestinians.

As one might expect, this statement provoked a sharp rebuttal from Israel’s far-right Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, whose core supporters happen to be these same extremist — often Russian — settlers. He accused Clinton of meddling in Israel’s internal affairs. Benjamin Netanyahu — trying to downplay the controversy — stated he “regretted” Clinton’s statement. MK Lia Shemtov (Yisrael Beitenu), chairperson of the Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, actually went on the offensive. Shemtov accused Clinton of having once provided Palestinian terrorists with rifles that lead to the deaths of Russian Jewish settlers, and demanded that he apologize.

So it was quite a shock to learn that after the fall-out from his first statement, Bill Clinton lobbed an even larger bomb shell at Israel. This time he blamed much of the world’s terrorism on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

“It will take about half the impetus in the whole world — not just the region, the whole world — for terror away,” he told an audience of Egyptian businessmen from the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt. “It would have more impact by far than anything else that could be done.”

Clinton — as both Vice President Joe Biden and General David Petraeus had done last March — linked the necessity for a Middle East peace agreement with the strategic interests of the United States of America (proclaiming it to be the very cornerstone of our battle against global terrorism). This is a HUGE rhetorical shift for the former President.

The former President’s comments should not be taken lightly. Not only is his wife, Hillary Clinton, serving as Secretary of State, he is a seasoned politician who devoted much energy and time to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict during his eight year term. He understands better than anyone the political ramifications in America for criticizing Israel publicly. It’s considered a faux pas for any American politician to suggest that the strategic interests of the United States are not identical to Israel’s, much less that Israeli policies are risking American lives.

Hillary Clinton, while serving as US Senator from New York and while running as a 2008 Presidential Candidate, never once dared to stray from the AIPAC-boilerplate narrative with regards to Israel. Last March, however, after Israel announced a resumption of illegal settlement expansions, Secretary of State Clinton rebuked Netanyahu in a telephone call . She was reported to have told him that “this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process and in America’s interests.” But after intense pressure from the Israel Lobby, the Administration backed away completely from this line of messaging. So why is Bill Clinton all of a sudden exorcising it from the grave?

The Obama Administration knows too well that each side of this conflict literally hangs onto every word uttered by an American President, past or present, but especially when an ex-President happens to be married to the current Secretary of State.

Haaretz reported that the Obama Administration is “incensed” with the Israeli government for not agreeing to extend the settlement moratorium in exchange for “unprecedented U.S. political and security assistance”:

Senior American officials said they were frustrated by Netanyahu’s conduct in the affair. “We’re not buying the excuse of political difficulties anymore,” a senior U.S. official told his Israeli counterpart.

The Americans said Netanyahu’s conduct is humiliating the president,” said a senior European diplomat who met with senior U.S. officials in New York last week.

Madame Secretary Clinton and Middle East Envoy George J. Mitchell are still pressing Israel to extend its now-lapsed moratorium. So was Bill Clinton — who just polled as the most popular politician in America — tasked with laying the groundwork for a potential US policy shift? His statements would obviously be reported world-wide and generate the appropriate controversy, thus guaranteeing the attention of both American and Israeli politicians and press — all without directly implicating the current Democratic Administration just before midterm elections.

One thing is for certain: it will be impossible for Bill Clinton (and extremely difficult for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) to walk back his statement — blaming the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as the main impetus for world terrorism. It will also be impossible for the Obama Administration (or even the voices of the Israel Lobby, for that matter) to convince anybody that Israel is not 100% responsible for intentionally sabotaging the current peace talks.

According to Bill Clinton’s statement, this would logically leave the US and Israel at a strategic impasse — that being Israeli intransigence in forging peace remains the major cause of worldwide terrorism, thereby threatening the lives of US citizens and US troops.

Which begs the obvious question: how should the United States respond when an ally’s intransigence poses a grave threat to US national security?

Originally published at AlterPolitics