In April, World Bank Group (WBG) president Jim Yong Kim announced the appointment of Pinelopi Koujianou (Penny) Goldberg, of Yale University, as chief economist. Goldberg was one of only three tenured female professors at Yale and the first female editor in chief of the American Economic Review. Her current research interests include the effects of trade liberalisation on growth and income distribution.
Her appointment follows the controversial departure of Paul Romer in January, after he questioned the integrity and validity of the Bank’s research in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He suggested that the World Bank’s research may have political motivations, and highlighted inconsistencies in the methodology of the much-criticised Doing Business Report’ s rankings (see Observer Spring 2018). Romer later recanted the claims in a personal blog post following his resignation.
Imrana Jalal became the newest member of the Inspection Panel, the Bank’s independent complaints mechanism. Beginning in December, she will succeed Gonzalo Castro de la Mata as the next chairperson. Prior to joining the panel, Jalal was a principal social development specialist in gender and development at the Asian Development Bank. She also served on the executive board of the International Commission of Jurists and was a commissioner on the Fiji Human Rights Commission.
The World Bank has previously faced criticism from civil society organisations (CSOs) about the hiring process for members of the Inspection Panel. Kindra Mohr of US-based CSO Accountability Counsel noted that, “The legitimacy and independence of the Panel are closely tied to this hiring process. Given that the Bank’s Board is currently considering how to expand the Panel’s ‘toolkit’ and enhance its ability to address community concerns, the Bank’s leadership should also update this hiring practice to ensure that the Panel is independent in both perception and reality, reflecting best practice at other international financial institutions.”