The World Bank needs to go truly Global

Many seem to opine that if only the votes and the composition of the Executive Boards of the World Bank (and the IMF) reflected better current economic size, then global imbalances had a better chance to disappear, like magic. It might not be as easy as that, and just for a starter why would GDP or the market share of the world trade be more important than market capitalizations for assigning voting power. Also if we are at it, why should we not then go for a full Monty on democratic reform and use population as the basis?

If and when a possible reshuffling of the current 24 Executive Directors should happen, I hope it will be to give representation, perhaps not to Civil Society, which is sort of intangible, but to that very tangible piece of land, water, and air that we all know as earth.

Although we proudly name ourselves the World Bank, the fact is that we are more of a “Pieces of the World Bank”, with 24 Executive Director representing parochial interests. As a consequence I sadly had to conclude in that the World itself, call it Mother Earth if you want, in these times of globalization, is in fact the Bank’s most underrepresented constituency.

This needs to be fixed, urgently, as we need to be able to stimulate a profoundly shared ownership for the long-term needs of our planet, if we want to survive as a truly civilized society, worthy of the name civilization. As I see it, adding a couple of truly independent seven-year-term Executive Directors, whose role would be to think about the world of our grandchildren, way beyond the 2015 of the Millennium Development Goals—could be what the World Bank most needs now.

And, while at it, we should perhaps also ask one of the current Directors to give up his Chair for a new constituency—call it, if you will, the Constituency of the International Rovers, by which I mean all those workers, skilled or unskilled, legal or illegal, who nowadays represent jointly one of the largest economies of the world. By the way, the first thing that the Rovers’ ED would need to do is to make clear the enormous difference that exists between an immigrant with a long-term plan to emigrate from motherland and forever assume a new nationality, and, on the other hand, a temporary worker who just wants to make a buck in order to help his family to a better life, and who wishes with all his heart and soul to return home as soon as possible. Forcing temporary workers to swear allegiances to foreign flags, just so that they can have the right to a better income, cleaning toilets, seems only like a new generation of artificial trade barriers.

Currently we are too stuck in the geography of the non-globalized world to be able to see what is truly happening around us. For instance, El Salvador has about 2 million of its people working abroad, more than a third of its total workforce and so if to the current GDP figures of El Salvador we add what these workers are earning, gross, well then perhaps El Salvador’s growth rate could actually be higher than China’s. And you tell me, why should we not do it this way? Is not an El Salvadoran still a real El Salvadoran just because he or she is working abroad? The internal emigration in China from west to east might take a Chinese from 50 to 150 dollars per month, but the El Salvadorans going south to north go from 120 to 1.200, and no one is heard complaining about an over or undervalued currency.

(Extract from a presentation of Voice and Noise at InfoShop on May 16, 2006)