WASHINGTON (AFP) – The developing world should coalesce around a single candidate as it tries to put a non-American at the head of the World Bank for the first time, Colombian candidate Jose Antonio Ocampo told AFP Wednesday.
Ocampo, who is vying against Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and American Jim Yong Kim to lead the development lender did not rule out dropping out of the race himself.
“It makes some sense for the developing world to be united in the final reckoning,” he told AFP in an interview.
Korean-American Kim is the odds-on favorite to become the next president of the Bank after being tapped by US President Barack Obama for the post.
This is the first time in the World Bank’s near 70 year history that anyone has ran against the American nominee.
Under a mutually serving agreement, the United States and European nations have divvied up leadership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the institutions were founded in the 1940s.
But with the balance of world power tipping toward the emerging economies of Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa, many developing countries are crying foul.
Yet bank watchers say there is little chance of the developing world succeeding in its efforts to take the top spot unless it unites behind one candidate.
Asked if he would be willing to step aside for Okonjo-Iweala, Ocampo said “we will see when the time comes.”
But the Colombian former finance minister insisted that either he or Okonjo-Iweala — Nigeria’s finance minister and a respected former World Bank managing director — would be a better choice than Kim, who is well known for his work in campaigns against AIDS in Africa.
“He is a very competent doctor, but if we speak strictly about development experience, the Nigerian minister and I amply surpass him.”
Still, Ocampo, who is today a professor at Columbia University, faces an uphill struggle to land the nomination.
Colombia has not backed his candidature, choosing instead to funnel efforts toward nominating someone to lead the International Labor Organization.
“I accept that priority, but my candidature doesn’t come from Colombia,” Ocampo said. “It was a process organized by the Group of 24 (developing countries).”
Ocampo indicated he would like to see the World Bank set clearer priorities: “The first is the fight against poverty. The bank also has to weigh how it divides responsibilities with other parts of the system.”
The World Bank will interview the three candidates to succeed president Robert Zoellick on April 9-11, Ocampo said.
The World Bank was not immediately available to confirm the board’s interview schedule.
The Bank plans to select the new president by its April 20-22 Spring Meetings with the IMF.
Zoellick, a former US diplomat, is set to step down at the end of his five-year term in June.