Outgoing World Bank President Robert Zoellick. Photo by: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

A change in leadership inevitably raises questions about an organization’s future.

Last week, World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced that he will step down in June, opening the floor to speculation about his successor. We asked you to weigh in via Facebook, and more than half of the respondents suggested Hillary Clinton should lead the multilateral donor.

Granted, our poll just had two other choices: Larry Summers and “other.” But since few insiders doubt that the next World Bank chief will be a U.S. citizen, it made sense to us to hone in on what are rumored to be two of President Barack Obama’s top choices.

At this point, it’s likely that all but a few top Obama associates know who he’s leaning toward nominating. And his candidate may well be someone other than the U.S. secretary of state or the former U.S. national economic council director. After all, both have strengths and weaknesses: Summers is an economic expert with a temper, and Clinton has the kind of star power Obama would like to retain on his team a bit longer.

“In spite of Hillary Clinton’s many attributes, these do not include economics,” wrote Gene Yakub from Kenya, adding: “Larry Summers failures on a national scale to be extended to an international scale?”

Of course there are many other good choices — both from the United States and beyond. Devex reader Paul Jourdan, for instance, suggested an economic legend and former World Bank chief economist: Joseph Stiglitz, who now teaches at Columbia University. Others have floated the name of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

I find one comment we received via Facebook particularly fascinating. One Clinton supporter argued that as World Bank chief, the 64-year-old former first lady could “take some rest time after such an admirable job she has done” on international affairs.

If the World Bank’s top post is equated with repose, you know that the perception of an institution filled with paper-pushing bureaucrats is still very much alive.

But as you know, no matter who takes the reins, the bank faces questions far beyond leadership.

We explored the future of the World Bank and its impact on global development this week in a series of articles by Devex correspondent Phil Thornton — part of our growing focus on in-depth reportage and analysis.

In “After Zoellick, World Bank faces uncertain future,” bank insiders make the case for positioning the bank as a global knowledge center.

And in “Caroline Anstey on the World Bank’s drive to ‘democratize development’,” we asked the bank’s modernization czar about its role as an “important catalyst for investment” and an increasingly “location-neutral” connector.

I invite you to give these articles a good read, share with your colleagues, and let us know your choice for who should lead the World Bank into the future. Because one thing is clear: As the international development landscape shifts, so does the bank’s role — and idle is one thing the next World Bank president won’t be.

Read last week’s Development Buzz.

About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.