In October last year, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced the appointment of Kristalina Georgieva as chief executive officer of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, the Banks middle income country arm) and the International Development Association (IDA, the World Banks low income country arm). Georgieva started working for the World Bank in 1993 after working as vice president of the European Commission (EC) and losing her bid to become UN Secretary General. Since starting in January Georgieva mentioned to Devex that her “first priority is to build the strength of the IBRD and IDA”and to encourage greater collaboration with the private sector, providing loan packages focusing on regulatory reforms, where “the private sector will do the rest” (see Observer Summer 2017 and Update 86).
The appointment has not been without controversy. In November last year Politico magazine reported on fears over conflicts of interest in Georgieva’s role. It noted concern that she had overseen a new payment structure from the EC to the Bank, while still working at the EC, which would lead to “projects directly carried out by the World Bank … [being] subject to a 17 per cent charge on the cost of personnel and consultants.” Amidst anti-globalisation sentiment, Georgieva’s appointment has been seen to appease western donors amid fears that low interest rates threaten World Bank revenues and that, as noted by the Financial Times, some think that the Bank is ‘sliding into irrelevance’.
Previously, the Bank suffered from widespread discontent by staff (see Observer Winter 2015), as management restructuring resulted in greater ‘centralisation’ (see Update 85). In this light, Paul Cadario, of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and retired Bank senior manager, said that “Georgieva has helped stabilise Kim’s botched reorganisation, but the organisational silos will be difficult – if not impossible – to fix. Georgieva has, unfortunately, not shown courage or leadership on Kim’s Ivanka Fund or his Pandemic Facility, either. She seems to be micromanaging practice leader appointments, missing an opportunity to break down barriers and reform obsolete processes that are ill-suited to the new context of competition and financial constraint the Bank now finds itself in.”