Every year the Bretton Woods Project celebrates the most absurd and ridiculous use of words by members of staff at the World Bank and IMF. This year we recognise leadership at both institutions: the wind beneath Kim’s chicken wings; the mystery of the magical coal power plant; the mathematical incompetence of the Bank and Fund; and Lagarde’s request to be used.
In a May 2013 article, Bank president Jim Yong Kim took time out to comment on the important development that during the American football championship, the Super Bowl, “chicken wings were suddenly more expensive.” Apparently nothing is more effective than fried chicken at getting Kim to ask “what can we do in agriculture to help stop climate change while still feeding the world?”
The Global Monitoring Report produced jointly by both the World Bank and IMF revealed the inability of the staff to understand basic numeracy. A pie chart illustrated that 76 per cent of the extreme poor live in rural areas. However, only about two thirds of the chart was coloured in. Not bad for a supposedly highly educated workforce?
Another noteworthy winner is the mystery of the disappearing coal plant. The International Finance Corporation, the Bank’s private sector arm, created concern when it was revealed that a mining project in Mongolia’s Gobi desert included a 750-megawatt coal fired power station. Assurance was provided by IFC staff member Josef Skoldeberg, who explained that the Bank was ignoring its energy investment guidelines because the project is “not a power investment” but is in fact “a mining project”. Never mind about the carbon emissions then.
Top prize goes to an embarrassing letter found at IMF managing director Christine Lagarde’s apartment by the French anti-corruption police. Addressed to the then French president when she was finance minister, Lagarde reportedly told Sarkozy to “use me for as long as it suits you”. This is not the first example of Lagarde’s obscure use of words. It seems that 2013 was the year in which Lagarde’s quest to become a world-renowned greeting card writer began. In a series of speeches, Lagarde told listeners that “islands rely on reeds, just as reeds rely on islands”, “do not walk meanderingly in the snow” as well as reminding us that “the outsider doesn’t know the path through the calabash trees.” Inspiring indeed.