On Sunday, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) member countries are scheduled to vote for a new president. The former president, Mauricio Claver-Carone, was unceremoniously dismissed by the board of governors following allegations of misconduct concerning his relationship with a staffer.
Claver-Carone was an anomaly from the start. Just like the conventions regarding the leadership of the World Bank (American) and the International Monetary Fund (European), the presidency of the IDB, since its inception in 1959, has always been reserved for a candidate from Latin America and the Caribbean. There is good reason for this. That bloc accounts for the majority of its members. Its purpose is to provide financing to assist countries of that region to achieve their development goals. Its membership includes several donor countries which, by virtue of their contributions and shares, hold just over 50 per cent of its voting power.
In an inexplicable break from tradition, then US President Donald Trump insisted on having an American installed as president. Regrettably, he was able to cajole a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries to go along with this strange departure. Even before the 2020 presidential elections in America, the Joe Biden campaign objected to Claver-Carone, labelling him as a right-wing ideologue. It was clear that he would have had a hard time finding his way around a Biden-controlled White House with America so critical to the IDB's functioning.
There are five candidates from whom a new president will be chosen on Sunday. They are Cecilia Todesca, nominated by Argentina; Ilan Goldfajn, nominated by Brazil; Nicolas Eyzaguirre, nominated by Chile; Gerardo Esquivel, nominated by Mexico; and Gerard Johnson, nominated by Trinidad and Tobago.
Gerard Johnson is well known to us. A Trinidadian by birth, he has had a long and distinguished career in senior positions at the IDB, including serving here as its country manager and, following his retirement, he was engaged as an advisor to the minister of finance here in Jamaica. He is married to a Jamaican and has acquired a home here in Jamaica. His competence and experience, however, are far more important than his Jamaican connections.
The IDB has been a significant source of development loans and grants to Jamaica. Its current loan portfolio to Jamaica is more than US$400 million. It goes without saying that Jamaica's prospects would be significantly enhanced by having someone at the helm who knows Jamaica intimately, is familiar with our efforts — their successes and failures — and cannot avoid being considerate of our cause.
Johnson's accession to the presidency faces significant challenges. The other nominees are not short on credentials, particularly Ilan Goldfajn, a former governor of the central bank of Brazil, and Nicolas Eyzaguirre, Chile's former finance minister. Yet Johnson's intimate knowledge of the IDB and his understanding of the development challenges with which the majority of the IDB member countries have to contend give him a unique advantage.
The election of the IDB president is a complicated process. The successful candidate must obtain more than 50 per cent of the votes of member states in which America and Canada alone control more than a third. But he or she must also secure the majority votes of the 26 borrowing countries in which Caricom has eight votes and a board chaired by our own Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke. We wait to see whether Caricom solidarity, which has been wobbly in recent times, will hold this time.
Incoming Brazilian President Lula DaSilva has indicated his discomfort with the nomination put forward by the outgoing administration of Jair Bolsonaro. He has requested a postponement of the election, which is not likely to be granted but will, no doubt, impact the thinking of other member countries.
Sunday's vote could be crucial to Jamaica's development efforts. We wait with bated breath.
Bruce Golding served as Jamaica's eighth prime minister from September 11, 2007 to October 23, 2011.