Pinelopi’s odyssey

When Professor Pinelopi „Penny“ Goldberg applied for the position of chief economist at the World Bank in 2018, it was not her first application to the bank. Thirty years before she had applied for an internship, but was rejected. She took it as a challenge, which brought her from Freiburg to Yale and finally to Washington D.C. nonetheless.

published by Letter, the magazine of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD >> (and as a short version on the DAAD website >>)

“Workers in Republican counties are the most negatively affected by the US trade war”, wrote Professor Penny Goldberg in a paper in early 2019 and with her colleagues totted up the costs for the USA of US President Donald Trump’s tariffs: just shy of 70 billion US dollars. Business as usual for an economics professor at Yale. But by that time Goldberg had already taken up her post as the World Bank’s chief economist – an institution whose main source of funding is the US government and whose new president was appointed by Trump.
The 56-year-old sits in her new office in Washington, just two blocks but a very long way away from the White House. “What’s good is that we have freedom of speech at the World Bank”, she says, and her head of communications nods. Goldberg needs to make it clear where she stands. Her predecessor, the Nobel laureate Professor Paul Romer, took this freedom of speech too seriously. During an interview he admitted that an inhouse method of ranking different countries had been tacitly changed, with the result that Chile – under its socialist president Michelle Bachelet – had plunged by dozens of places. A few days later he resigned his job.
Goldberg did not take the same risk in her paper: in this house of free trade Trump’s tariffs are unpopular in any case. So how critical is Romer’s successor allowed to be?
She did not take up the position to revolutionise the world – or the World Bank – but she does want to make the bank’s decisions more effective and a bit more fair.

Continue in Letter, the magazine of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD >> >>