World Bank: Who the cap fits

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By Denrele Animasaun
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” -Harold R. McAlindon

For over 60 years the World Bank’s presidency appears to have  been dictated by the US. All things being equal, the powers that be (the US)is determined or resigned that the next president of this great establishment will be chosen on merit, not hegemony.

The candidacy of the World Bank is hotly contested by three worthy candidates: two men and a woman. You heard, a woman, an African woman.

It is truly historic to be engaged in a global debate about who should head the World Bank. Let’s examine the credentials of the three candidates. First, Ocampo, 59, is a respected academic who got his PhD in economics from Yale at the age of 23 and has published widely on policies to help developing countries reduce their exposure to financial volatility.

So on merit, José Antonio Ocampo is a qualified candidate to lead and reform the World Bank. Ocampo has the breadth of knowledge and experience to reform the World Bank for these 21st-century challenges. He has managed and reformed major global institutions and government ministries. And, as a leading development economist in academia, he will have the respect of a Bank swarming with economists.

He managed major global institutions and national ministries, and is one of the most noted development economists of our time.

He said last week, that the organization needs a “change of culture,” citing the bank’s past difficulties in collaborating with other international institutions. And that the World Bank has shifted its ethos of poverty reduction to the management of global commons. He noted that the Bank should be a central player helping low and middle income countries deal with global warming through its infrastructure loans and technical assistance.

The second candidate, Jim Yong Kim strongly supported by the US,has a lighter resume compared to Ocampo in the financial circles, where there are concerns if he is up to the challenges of such esteemed and highly pressured challenges that the post attracts.

He does have his supporters including the Obama administration as well as the deputy finance minister Gerardo Rodriguez ,who thinks Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. nominee for the next World Bank president, is the best candidate for the job.

Dr. Kim, 49, has had a profound impact on a wide range of organisations throughout his distinguished career, including, among others, the Harvard Medical School, the World Health Organization and Partners In Health, a non-profit organization that supports health programmes in poor communities worldwide. He is widely respected for his leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other diseases.

Dr. Kim’s academic, humanitarian and global health work has earned him widespread recognition. He was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2003. Dr. Jim Yong Kim, is an internationally recognized physician and humanitarian and an accomplished educator and anthropologist

Despite his notable credentials, he trails third amongst the three. Afterall,theKorean-American health expert Kim is up against Nigerian Finance Minister Okonjo-Iweala, who left a top post at the World Bank last year and the former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo.

Meanwhile, the other candidate, Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has garnered far more public enthusiasm than Ocampo.

She is fully equipped than Kim to lead the World Bank. Some say she is too much of a Bank insider to rock the dogma and put in the much needed reforms in place. Some of the nay Sayers are already writing her off that she cannot win because she is not American. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala can lead the World Bank.

It will be a golden opportunity and a mission statement to work towards tackling global poverty, with an experienced hand at the helm. She is a mainstream development expert with sterling credentials, who happens to be an African woman. She has been widely praised and with a proven record.

She is clearly the best candidate for those countries that want a broad development agenda at the World Bank, which includes all the big borrowers and emerging-market countries that benefit from continued engagement with the bank.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is currently a fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was educated at Harvard University — and has a Ph.D. in regional economics and development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

From 2003 to 2006, she served first as Finance Minister and — then as Foreign Minister — of Nigeria under President Olusegun Obasanjo. She was the first woman to hold both positions in Nigeria.

During her tenure as Finance Minister, she worked to combat corruption, make Nigeria’s finances more transparent, and institute reforms to make the nation’s economy more hospitable to foreign investment. The government unlinked its budget from the price of oil, its main export, to lessen perennial cashflow crises, and got oil companies to publish how much they pay the government.

Prior to her ministerial career, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala was Vice President and Corporate Secretary of the World Bank Group.

Many observers regard her structural and macroeconomic reforms as a pivotal step in safeguarding Nigeria’s public finances and overcoming corruption in the country.

Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is a frequent speaker and writer on the fight against corruption and has outlined several challenges of reform.

The Obama administration will have no qualm in throwing their support and cooperation behind her, Choosing Okonjo-Iweala vindicates the principle that the organisation’s head can be chosen on merit.

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