Baton change at World Bank
4/16/2012 3:04:07 PM -
This week, global financial leaders are gathering in Washington DC in the United States for the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
At the heart of the gathering are meetings of the IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee and the joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee, which discusses progress on the work of the IMF and World Bank.
The event is a special kind because it provides the ideal forum for thousands of government officials, the private sector, journalists, civil society representatives and other interested observers from all over the world to discuss current developments and the global economic future.
Also featured are seminars, regional briefings, press conferences and many other events focused on the global economy, international development, and the world's financial markets.
However, in the next few weeks a new president will be announced for World Bank in Washington DC -- and this has become topical as delegates converge to get ready for the meetings.
Ordinarily, this should not be something that excites anybody outside the inner recesses of governments. Firstly, it gives the possibility of having the first non-American as president in the history of the institution. And that possibility is strong, considering that the most outstanding candidate, technically, for the position is an African.
Secondly, that candidate is a woman -- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The Nigerian finance minister, 57, has been endorsed by three African countries -- South Africa, Angola and Nigeria -- and is sponsored by the African Union.
Many consider her as a perfect fit for the position of president of the World Bank, an organisation of 184 member-states that lends US$57bn (£35.9bn) a year to developing nations.
The two other candidates are Jose Antonio Ocampo, Colombia's former finance minister and a university professor - nominated by Brazil; and Jim Yong Kim, a doctor and leading UN health official - nominated by US President Barack Obama.
Last week, all three candidates faced a 25-member Executive Committee interview panel to allow for their proper assessment and their vision for the biggest poverty-fighting institution in the world.
Meanwhile Reuters on Friday said its sources say Ocampo is set to withdraw his nomination for the World Bank presidency in an agreement among emerging and developing countries to coalesce around one nominee.
The sources said a straw poll among World Bank directors representing the Group of 11, which includes emerging countries and Australia, backed Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Ocampo was nominated by Brazil, which represents the constituency of Latin American countries on the World Bank board.
The presidency of World Bank has been exclusive to the United States since it was founded in 1944-- and has never been held by a woman.
Even though the office is an elected one, the voting is heavily skewed in favour of the major economic powers, and the US -- being the largest contributor to the bank's funds -- has about 16% of all votes in its hat.
Added to those of its traditional European allies, the votes give its candidate a huge advantage.
But after having produced the bank's first 11 successive presidents, America is now under increased pressure to support the election of the 12th from a developing nation.
This time, other countries are hoping that they can persuade the US to subtly allow the selection to be based on merit, arguing it would be in America's own interests to have a better-performing bank -- and, in exchange, secure future political support in other areas.
'We are not asking the US not to compete, we are just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits,' Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala remarked.
The Harvard-educated economist was a well-respected managing director there for years after serving as Nigeria's first female finance minister.
Jim Yong Kim is currently president of Dartmouth College and is being backed by the US for the job. Born in Seoul, the 52-year-old is a leading figure in global health. He is a doctor and former director of the HIV/Aids department at the World Health Organisation.
Jose Antonio Campo is a professor of professional practice in the International and Public Affairs department of Columbia University. He was nominated by Brazil with support from the Dominican Republic.
The former Colombian finance minister has held other posts in government, including agriculture. He has held a number of positions in the United Nations, including UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs.