If Bono ran the World Bank ...

If Bono ran the World Bank ...

If Bono ran the World Bank ...

Answers to your questions about the news.
March 7 2005 6:18 PM

If Bono Ran the World Bank ...

What the job entails.

Bono, the lead singer of U2, may make the shortlist of candidates to run the World Bank, U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow suggested on Sunday: "He's in a way a rock star of the development world too." What does the president of the World Bank actually do?

He travels the world, manages an army of 10,000 employees, and shakes lots and lots of hands. When outgoing president James Wolfensohn steps down at the end of May, he will have traveled to more than 120 countries over his two five-year terms. The World Bank, founded in 1944, lends money and makes grants to developing countries around the world. On trips to both member nations and developing nations, the president meets with government officials and nongovernmental groups, holds press conferences, and surveys the impact of the bank's aid projects.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate.


When he's not on the road, the president works from Washington, D.C., and presides over semiweekly meetings of the bank's board of executive directors, 24 political appointees representing the 184 countries that control the organization. Board meetings take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and typically run all day. If the president can't be there, his managing director fills in.

According to the bank's organization chart, the president reports to the board, which retains all authority to make decisions. But in practice, the bank's vague mandate and wide range of activities allow the president a degree of autonomy.

He reviews grant and loan decisions, sets priorities for the bank, and manages its international staff (of which one-third is stationed overseas). He's also responsible for keeping the development committee—which oversees both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—happy. He works seven days a week for most of the year, with five weeks of vacation. For his efforts, the president gets paid about $300,000 per year plus travel, and his income is not taxed.

How does the president get selected? There are no formal rules about who can become World Bank president or how that person should be selected. But by tradition, the president of the United States makes the choice. He selects an American citizen and submits the name to the executive board for its rubber-stamp approval. (A European always serves as the managing director of the IMF.) In theory, Bush could nominate a non-American like Bono for the job, but when the Australian-born Wolfensohn was in the running, he felt he needed to obtain American citizenship in order to compete.

Explainer thanks Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University and Damian Sean Milverton of the World Bank.