When reporters ask questions of Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, they should be prepared to get very blunt answers, as Swedish Television (SVT) climate correspondent Erika Bjerström found out in a mid-February interview with her.
The interview, and Mottley’s response, has attracted quite a bit of attention on social media, and feeds into discussions around the role and responsibility of the World Bank—whose Trump-appointed leader, David Malpass, recently resigned.
Mottley’s name has been proffered as a potential replacement—but she in turn has offered suggestions of her own.
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Nadine White, a U.K.-based journalist, filmmaker, and dedicated race correspondent for The Independent, , posted a portion of Mottley’s interview to Twitter.
ERIKA BJERSTRÖM: The elephant in the room, what a lot of Western climate diplomats tell me, is that leaders like yourself also carry a responsibility. Why are vulnerable countries still so debt-stricken, why is there still corruption … what is your response to that?
MIA MOTTLEY: You really want me to answer you?
BJERSTRÖM: I do.
MOTTLEY: Okay. Why is it that every time we talk about countries from the South, the first allegation is corruption? Last time I checked, in the USA, and the UK, and Europe, they’re riddled with corruption but nobody says that they’re not capable of achieving their objectives because of corruption.
Why is it that we are not talking about the fact that these countries became independent having allowed those countries that colonized them to extract significant portions of their wealth? Such that we had no proper housing, no proper education, no proper health care systems, no proper legal systems, no proper—across the whole stream—and certainly having to do with building social capital like community development and cultural enterprises.
And what has happened, is therefore that we have spent the time since independence trying to give our people what the global North has taken for granted, and has supported by the extrication of centuries of wealth to give their people—out of our blood, sweat, and tears.
Now when our blood, sweat, and tears finances the industrial revolution, and the industrial revolution then causes a climate crisis, and then I have to pay for the consequences of the climate crisis because of the industrial revolution, financed by our blood, sweat, and tears. Then I think that they have no moral authority to tell me anything about the financing of the climate, or about why we don’t have enough.
BJERSTRÖM: Is it anger over this that fuels your energy?
MOTTLEY: Anger? Absolutely not. Unfairness, lack of justice. We’re not angry. I’m just disappointed that humankind wants to believe that’s there’s one world for a set of people, and another world for another set.
I won’t be the first to point out that Bjerström dropping the “angry Black woman” trope on Mottley was inappropriate.
Here’s my favorite affirmative response to Mottley’s pushback:
STV also published an article covering the conversation between Bjerström and Mottley; I’ve used Google Translate to create an English version.
The island nation of Barbados is facing existential challenges due to the climate crisis. Prime Minister Mia Mottley has now gathered a large group of countries that want to demand of the World Bank and the private business community as much money as possible to pay for climate finance.
Mia Mottley wants to break what she considers to be a stalemate around the growing need for climate finance.
On her initiative, several countries have joined the so-called Bridgetown Group, with a huge list of demands directed at the richer world. This involves, among other things, changing the World Bank's and IMF's principles for lending.
Much of what Mottley has proposed has been echoed by others.
The Guardian's economics editor, Larry Elliot, wrote, “It’s high time to rethink how the World Bank operates” in February.
Wanted: a new president for the World Bank, a venerable global institution with a mission to eradicate poverty. The successful candidate will have a plan for tackling the crisis in human development caused by the global pandemic. Climate-change deniers and non-Americans need not apply.
By all accounts, the US has already made up its mind who it wants to run one of the two bodies established at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944. Rajiv Shah, who runs the Rockefeller Foundation and was formerly the head of the US agency for international development (USAID) is the hot favourite to take over from the departing David Malpass.
There’s been talk since Malpass announced his departure of a campaign to persuade Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, to be the candidate for the developing world.
No question, Mottley would give the World Bank the direction it has lacked in recent years. She was responsible for the Bridgetown Initiative – a plan for the reform of development finance that would involve automatic debt relief for countries faced by pandemics or natural disasters; an extra $1tn of funding from development banks (including the World Bank) for climate resilience; and a new mechanism for channelling private sector investment into climate mitigation.
Calvin G. Brown, a broadcaster and editor of Jamaica’s Wired JA, wrote an opinion piece supporting Mottley as a prime candidate to replace Malpass.
Enter Mia Amor Mottley, the woman with the plan who is demanding recognition of the fact that the Bretton Woods institutions and the Multilateral Development Banks are no longer existing in the world of 1945 or contending with the development challenges that were relevant to that era.
She contends that “they must now come into the 21st century and adjust their sights to dealing with the massive existential and developmental challenges that are currently facing the close to 200 nations that now exist in the world, and on the massively increased scale that is now required!”
Prime Minister Mottley dealt with a very critical component of the new modus operandi that is required when she declared:-
“But I ask for us to reach a global compact: namely, that financing for development cannot be short-term financing, and that it needs to be at least 30-year money. The world recognized that when it allowed Britain to be able to participate in the refinancing of its World War 1 bonds, which were only paid off eight y ears ago, 100 years after World War 1 started. Or when it allowed Germany to cap its debt service at the equivalent of 3% of its exports, conscious that the cataclysmic experience of war would not have allowed Germany to finance reconstruction while repaying debts incurred for war.
My friends, we are no different today! We have incurred debts for COVID. We have incurred debts for climate. And we have incurred debts, now, in order to fight this difficult moment with the inflationary crisis and with the absence of certainty of supply of goods. Why, therefore, must the developing world now seek to find money within 7 to 10 years when others had the benefit of longer tenures to repay their money?”
The case has been made, and the jury has returned…..Mia Amor Mottley for World Bank President!
Mottley, however, has suggested other candidates for the position.
World Bank development candidates garner support from Mottley. Leader of global financial institution reform lends backing to two prominent candidates
Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados who is leading efforts to overhaul global financial institutions, voiced support for two of the contenders with development experience to reform the World Bank as its new president. Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the World Trade Organization director-general, were both “more than qualified” for the top job at the World Bank, Mottley said in an interview with the Financial Times. They had the “instinct for reform” needed to integrate climate change into the multilateral lender’s work, she said.
Mottley’s vision for reforming the World Bank and IMF has won her wide recognition and the public backing of French President Emmanuel Macron, with whom she will co-host a summit in Paris in June to scope out what is known as the Bridgetown Initiative. Mottley said the question for the World Bank leadership candidates was whether they could “carry the G7 countries along with them”, and rally their support for change.
The bank’s board on Wednesday said it hoped to select a new president by early May as it formally opened a month-long nomination process. It said it “would strongly encourage” female candidates. The US is the leading shareholder in the bank, followed by China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. Developing countries such as Barbados have only a small vote among the 189 country members but can carry sway with their public agenda.
I’m hoping that the time has come to step away from the privileged position held by global North powers to shape the future of the World Bank and the IMF, and that the voices of the global South will be given a hearing—especially the voice of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley!
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