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Kyrgyzstan: World Bank Country Director Storms Out of Round Table

For Kyrgyzstan-based netizens the story of last week was undoubtedly the sudden and violent meltdown of Alexander Kramer, head of the World Bank's Bishkek office, at a high level government-donor round table on February 3, 2012.

Kramer appeared to boil over during a speech by his IMF counterpart, Koba Gvenetadze, during which he rose from his chair, lobbed a drinking glass in the direction of Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Jomart Otorbayev, and stormed out of the meeting.

David Trilling, Eurasianet's Central Asia editor, was one of the first to blog the news:

The incident occurred during a donor meeting at government headquarters, known as the White House, in Bishkek. According to one eyewitness, Kramer had just spoken for a few minutes, praising recent government initiatives and encouraging Bishkek to ensure officials are chosen for their merits. He defended the World Bank’s sometimes slow motions in the country, noting that development is “a marathon rather than a sprint,” according to EurasiaNet's source. During the next set of remarks, by the International Monetary Fund’s country director, Kramer suddenly stood up, yelled, “This is all crap!” and threw the glass, which shattered on the floor in front of Otorbayev.

Although the Kyrgyz government and the World Bank offered slightly different versions of the condition that caused Alexander Kramer to “totally freak out“, as one online news agency put it, both agreed that it was something to do with blood.

According [ru] to citizen media portal Kloop.kg:

The World Bank argues that the office head performed the act solely because of his sharply deteriorating health. The glass, they say, was thrown by accident, and now Kramer is in hospital.

“The act of A. Kramer was caused solely by the state of his health: there was a sudden onset of circulatory disorders of the brain, which led to the extraordinary and unusual behavior of A. Kramer,” said the World Bank in a press release.

The government press service similarly reported that the behavior of Kramer was the result of a “heart attack”.

Tellingly, Kloop's reportage continued:

The World Bank has apologized for the behavior of the head of its office and said that the incident had nothing to do with the person speaking at the time – the head of the International Monetary Fund in Kyrgyzstan, Koba Gvenetadze.

It is no secret that officials from the fund and the bank often regard each other with suspicion and occasionally even hostility. In fact, the dysfunctional relationship between the global economic order's bad and good cops was the subject of a fascinating chapter in ex-World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stieglitz's 2002 whistleblowing best-seller “Globalization and its Discontents”. But if the IMF's abrasive, take no prisoners approach to fiscal policy in the developing world was the source of Kramer's red mist, why did the tumbler land closest to Deputy PM Otorbayev?

Twitter user @Ahmadon had [ru] another theory:

Hahaha, Alexander Kramer – hero, man, baike [elder brother in Kyrgyz], you see, he couldn’t be f***ed to listen to the empty chatter of our state officials

A second Twitter user, @azzzikcompared [ru] Kramer to ex-presidential candidate turned nutty clairvoyant Arstanbek Abdylaev, the subject of this recent Global Voices Post. However, post-tumblergate, Abdylaev's premonitions of ruptures in the international political order seem suddenly prescient, and a third user of the service suggested Sabri bey, a Turkish man who thinks he can fly, was a more worthy parallel.

A few days on from the scandle, the focus of Bishkek Twiterazzi is on Kramer's future:

@ajoroev: Is it true that Alexander Kramer is already the ex-head of the World Bank in Kyrgyzstan and moreover, [already] overseas?

While the former has yet to be confirmed, various agencies have since reported that he is now recuperating in London.

Whatever happens to Alexander Kramer in the long run, it is clear that one projectile-throwing monkey won't stop the show. Yesterday, the World Bank announced that it would be providing nearly $20 million in infrastructural funding for Kyrgyzstan's two main cities, Bishkek and Osh, in 2012. Whether that package will include compensation for a certain smashed glass will doubtless be the subject of a future round table.

N.B: Last time Global Voices relayed the status of imprisoned ethnic Uzbek rights activist, Azimzhan Askarov, he had just had his life sentence - handed down initially by a regional judge - reinforced by Kyrgyzstan's Supreme  Court. While Askarov remains in captivity, a recent interview with Eurasianet journalist Nate Schenkkan found the activist “psychologically resilient” and still interested in the rights of others. According to Kloop.kg, on February 6, Shirin Aitmatova became the first Kyrgyz MP to visit Askarov since he was interred over one-and-a-half years ago. On Twitter, not all the tweets using Aitmatova's @thelostroom tag were positive about the visit.

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