Western leadership in an Eastern world
Sordid tales of alleged rape and other forms of misconduct have been making the headlines recently. All in connection with the IMF. It’s not a combination that we get to see everyday, but as always, whenever something like this does occur, it is fascinating to observe. Because it is in these rare occasions that we get to know of vast monolithic organisations such as these that were set up before we were born to govern a world that has since ceased to exist.
An unwritten rule has subsisted amongst the running of the two largest multi-nation monetary organisations in the world: the World Bank shall be run by an American, while the IMF shall be run by a European.
In a post WWII era, this probably was the best thing to do. Probably. However, it has been 66 years since the ‘world’ has been at war with itself, and now would seem the best time to challenge such accepted habits. And so in 2011, we find ourselves with a selection of fine and accomplished individuals, many of them from emerging markets, fit and ready for the duties that come with being an IMF managing director. Except, this has only become the case because the current (now former) IMF MD has been arrested on alleged sexual crimes.
Take a step back and observe the situation for a moment. The only way for the rest of us to get a person to the very top of this institution is not by working hard or showing capability, but by hoping for the current guy to screw up so bad that they really have no choice but to replace him. If this is truly a democratic way of doing business, something is terribly wrong.
Just to punctuate the current standing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the next IMF leader should also be European, since most of the work the IMF is doing nowadays is bailing out crippled and mismanged European economies. By that logic, we should have had an Asian IMF head during the Asian financial crisis of 1998.
It is this blatant desperation that is becoming harder to ignore for the rest of us who do not belong to the Western hemisphere. These nations are in no condition to lead. But they aren’t going to give up their highest positions just yet, making it exceedingly clear that many of these so called ‘global’ organisations exist to further purely European and North American interests.
And were you under the impression that this was the only leadership crisis being dealt with by the Europeans, you would be highly mistaken. The past few weeks have been rank with accusations flying thick and fast against Mohammed bin Hammam and Qatar regarding their surprising World Cup 2022 hosting rights win and his bid to become FIFA’s next president.
The English, as always, involved in kicking up mud wherever they feel they have been wronged (which is everywhere), have said, along with other Europeans, that Qatar ‘bought’ the World Cup and were under the impression that they could ‘buy’ FIFA as well.
I do not know if Qatar bought the World Cup. I do however find it hard to believe that Qatar is the first nation being accused of such actions. But then again, it isn’t surprising. After all, they’re an Arab Muslim nation, what do they know about hosting world class events? They don’t even deserve to do so. Right?
There is no better way to push for the globalisation of a sport than by allowing nations from all over the world to host global events related to the sport. But I guess that isn’t FIFA’s main aim. Because, everything said and done, football is not a global sport, it is a European sport. Just last week I sat in a bar in Dubai with other people as far removed from Europe as I am, watching a Champions League final contested between two European clubs. You will not find these same people cheering an Asian Champions League or an African Champions League or a South American Champions League final. In fact, I’m not even completely sure such fixtures exist, though common sense tells me they must.
It is this stranglehold that FIFA has over world football that rankles many, including myself. Had the hosting rights been awarded to another European country, would such a fuss been made about how they had been awarded? Am I seriously supposed to believe that cash-for-votes schemes are something that has only been introduced to FIFA’s voting system in the past year?
Bin Hammam was clearly over-reaching himself, and as such has been ostracised and put in his place by Blatter and the FA. Hosting one World Cup is one thing, leading FIFA is a completely different ball game. Europe is more than willing to host editions of the tournament in Africa and Asia because of the massive monetary returns they enjoy. But only THEY get to enjoy it, make no mistake. Football is only a universal sport as long as the Europeans call the shots. We all get that now. Thanks for the clarification Blatter.
At the other end of the spectrum we find the most bizarre finding of a recent player survey in the world of cricket. Amongst a plethora of data, a major concern has been the BCCI being too powerful. Really? That is a concern? So what players (and I’m sure many administrators) think is that the BCCI is far too powerful in the modern game, all the while conveniently dismissing the facts that India is the only nation in the world that has a mass market for cricket (a mass that numbers a billion), along with the #1 ranked test team, are current World Cup champions and organise the richest cricket league in the world.
Yet, we are supposed to sit around with our hands on our knees and let others run the game without exercising our muscle. Were such questions raised when the game was run without a modicum of professionalism when the Australians and the English were in charge? Now for the first time, professional cricketers can look at cricket as just that; a profession. Our athletes are being paid on par with other world class sportspeople, but for some reason, this is overreaching.
The world is changing, and not at a pace that we cannot cope with. However, certain elements of our society seem adamant at sticking to the status quo, living off former glories without truly understanding the very beast they have nurtured - globalisation. Unfortunately for them, for the first time, the river is flowing both ways. And they are being washed away in the current.