Sunday, March 18, 2012

Editorial: Jeffrey Sachs offers World Bank a fitting perspective on poverty

Jeff Sachs
Candidate for President of the World Bank

The World Bank was created in 1944, and its official goal is still to end poverty. You wouldn't necessarily know that, though, by studying the succession of Wall Street bankers and career politicians who have led the international financial institution that provides billions of dollars of loans to developing countries.

Their lack of expertise on global economic development issues and insensitivity to the needs of developing nations have eroded the institution's credibility and, more important, undermined its ability to carry out its mission to reduce poverty and increase stability in some of the world's poorest regions.

Current World Bank President Robert Zoellick, previously a managing director of Goldman Sachs, will step down when his five-year term ends on June 30. By nominating world renowned American economist Jeffrey Sachs to succeed him, the administration of Barack Obama can move the World Bank in a more constructive direction -- one more closely aligned with its mission.

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

Other names Obama may consider include U.S. Sen. John Kerry, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, and economist Lawrence Summers -- none of whom can match Sachs' understanding of how economic development works around the world. Nor do most of them appear interested in the job. Sachs' congressional supporters include U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit.

Sachs, 57, a Detroit-area native, was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2004 and 2005. He is the world's leading expert on sustainable economic development -- an expertise he has demonstrated not only in New York Times best-selling books like "The End of Poverty" but also by helping to develop the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an organization that has saved millions of lives with vaccines and other low-cost but effective treatment and prevention measures.

Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and serves as special adviser to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. For more than 25 years, he has advised governments throughout the developing world on economic development and environmental problems. He founded the Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to ending extreme poverty and hunger, and he directed work on the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to reduce extreme poverty, hunger and disease by 2015.

As Sachs wrote in a March 1 column, the leader of the World Bank should come to office "understanding the realities of flooded villages, drought-ridden farms, desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children." Sachs would.

Some people have criticized Sachs for the unprecedented -- and perhaps unseemly -- act of openly campaigning for the presidency of the World Bank. But his enthusiasm, passion and even self-promotion are preferable to the murky, back-room dealing that normally precedes the appointment of a World Bank president.

To be sure, the president of the World Bank needs political skills to balance the needs and demands of donor and borrowing governments, but such a leader must also know how to use aid, technical assistance and loans to create prosperous, healthy, stable and secure communities and nations. That's the mission of the World Bank, and no one is more qualified to carry it out than Jeffrey Sachs.

Learn more: BEVERLY TRAN: Editorial: Jeffrey Sachs offers World Bank a fitting perspective on poverty
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