No Comment — May 21, 2007, 9:07 am

Picking a World Bank President

The White House promises to come up with a candidate to run the World Bank quickly. The top two choices, say my generally well-informed sources, are Robert Zoellick and Tony Blair, with occasional thought given to three other candidates. In my sense, either of these two gentlemen would meet the essential criteria for the post–gravitas and political clout. But is this a sensible way to go about filling this post? Seeing it as a bauble to be dolled out to a faithful political lackey?

The World Bank means little for the United States. But for two billion people living in the developing world, it can make a vital difference–the difference between clean water and death, for instance. The interest of these nameless millions should be weighed in this choice. And that points elsewhere: to a person with a good grounding in macroeconomics, a good understanding of finance, but real expertise in development.

There is one supremely qualified candidate in the wings, and the New York Times correctly identified him. His name is Ashraf Ghani, an American citizen who most recently served as Minister of Finance in Afghanistan. His stewardship of development economics in Afghanistan was one of that country’s few brilliant moments in recent years. He would be a choice worthy of the institution.

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I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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