By Annie Lowrey, New York Times, March 29, 2012
For the first time, the World Bank is considering more than one candidate for its five-year presidency — a change that reflects the fast-growing clout of emerging economies, even as it raises questions over whether that change is coming quickly enough.
Experts say that victory is all but assured for the American nominee, Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College and an expert in global health. But emerging and developing economies are rallying behind Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the 57-year-old Nigerian finance minister, and José Antonio Ocampo, the former Colombian finance minister and high-ranking United Nations official, who is 59.
The World Bank’s 25-member board will interview all three candidates in the coming weeks and plans to announce its new president by the I.M.F.-World Bank meetings in mid-April. Robert B. Zoellick, the current president, will step down at the end of June.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala and Mr. Ocampo have won the endorsement of a group of developing economies. And the United States is weathering criticism for the time-honored gentlemen’s agreement that ensures its control of the World Bank, even if the institution’s presidential selection process is opening up.
“For all its virtues, this nomination and its predetermined success reflects how global governance continues to lag behind shifting economic realities,” said Eswar S. Prasad, a professor at Cornell and an expert on international institutions. “Domestic politics has again trumped true multilateralism.”
Global health experts largely applauded Dr. Kim’s nomination, and he has scooped up the endorsement of a number of prominent commentators, like the development economist Jeffrey Sachs. Europe is expected to back him in that the United States supported the candidacy of Christine Lagarde, the former French finance minister, for managing director of the International Monetary Fund last year.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala and Mr. Ocampo were carefully vetted and specifically chosen for their long résumés and expertise in development and international economic negotiation. African governments lobbied the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, to encourage Ms. Okonjo-Iweala to run; the Group of 11 emerging economies pushed for Mr. Ocampo.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala was a World Bank managing director — working directly beneath the president — from 2007 until last July. In Nigeria, she has fought to reduce the country’s debt, gain greater access to international credit markets and battle corruption.
Mr. Ocampo served as finance minister and the head of the Colombian central bank, and led the arm of the United Nations that facilitates economic development.
In an interview, Mr. Ocampo expressed some initial hesitancy to enter the race, given the odds. “It is a relatively unbalanced competition,” he said with a laugh.
But he said his four decades of experience in development and international policy made him an excellent candidate. “I thought the developing-country candidates who were suitable for the job should be in the race,” he said. “I felt a responsibility to put a stone in the road toward a democratic process.”
Speaking by telephone from New Delhi, where she was attending the BRICS meeting of leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala also called for a merit-based, transparent selection process, suggesting a televised debate for herself, Mr. Ocampo and Dr. Kim.
Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College and an expert in global health.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the 57-year-old Nigerian finance minister,
José Antonio Ocampo, the former Colombian finance minister and high-ranking United Nations official, who is 59.
While this competition is unlikely to produce a World Bank President from the third world, (given both the power and the tradition that the U.S. has exerted on the institution), nevertheless, the fact that other countries are rallying around other candidates, without in any way disdaining the nomination of the Dartmouth College president, is a sure sign of the growing muscle, confidence and influence of the third world.
And that can only be a healthy development for all of us.
We do not need, nor do we crave or embrace so readily as we perhaps once did, an American super-hero on the stage of global economics, trade, manufacturing, and political decision-making.
While there's has been and will continue to be an important and mostly positive contribution to the world's governance, the United States is facing a significant change, even transformation, in the degree of influence it has and will have in the near and medium future, and perhaps forever.
As emerging countries gain both in self-respect and in the quality of their national performances, there will indeed be many individuals, perhaps U.S. educated, who will mount the world stage, with dignity, with expertise and with growing support from the developed world, if that world, including especially the U.S. is able to witness the change with its own dignity, self-respect and honour in tact.
And that will be more the question to watch, than whether the emerging countries can take their rightful place on the world stage, in such august agencies as the World Bank.
We welcome the new initiatives, albeit somewhat tertiary and unlikely to succeed this time, but certainly they indicate a healthy and growing cadre of professionals from whom to select the next World Bank President. That can only bode well for that specific institution, and for world governance generally.