Okonjo-Iweala’s World Bank bid
Monday, April 09,  2012

The position of President of the world’s foremost development agency, the World Bank, is due to be filled by the first of July this year. This development is sequel to the decision of the incumbent president of the Bank, Mr. Robert B. Zoellick, to step down at the end of his term in June.

And, in response to the clamour of most of its 187-member nations for a democratization of the Bank’s structure, leadership and decision-making loop; the governing board, for the first time in its many years of existence, threw open the job of the Bank’s chief executive officer to the citizens of the entire world.

In response to the newly established criteria and process for the appointment of the Bank’s new leader, three persons were shortlisted for consideration by the governing board at the close of nominations on March 23, 2012.

The nominees are: Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a consummate economist and diplomat who has worked across the entire strata and spectra of the World Bank over a 25-year span. She left recently as the Bank’s Managing Director and putative deputy to its President to assume duties in a second stint as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy.

She was also a former Finance Minister as well as Foreign Minister of Nigeria.
The second nominee is Jose Antonio Ocampo, currently a professor at Columbia University, New York. Ocampo was a former two-time Colombian Minister of Finance and also former United Nations Under-Secretary for economic and social affairs. The third nominee by the US government, Jim Yong Kim, is a Korean-American. Dr. Kim is a Harvard-trained medical doctor and anthropologist, and a former World Health Organization official who had established some reputation in the global fight against tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. He is currently the President (Vice Chancellor) of Dartmouth College, USA.

Juxtaposing the credentials of the nominees and weighing in particular the breadth and depth of their respective experiences vis-a-vis the requisite critical competencies for leading the Bank at this challenging period of great changes in the global socio-economic order clearly show that Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala towers above the other two.

We, therefore, call on all of the Bank’s member nations to honour their commitment to a truly open, competitive, transparent and merit-based objective criteria and process, and insist that the Bank’s governing board strictly adheres to these, in the evaluation, interview and appointment of the new head of the World Bank on April 21, 2012. The world has moved on since the twin Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank group and the International Monetary Fund, were established in the spring of 1944, and it is high time the duopoly of the US and Europe in the respective headships of the Bank and the Fund is broken.

The hurdles to realizing a fairer and more equitable order in Bretton Woods are enormous. The USA and Western Europe must resist the temptation to remain the hostage of an anachronistic World War II carve up at Bretton Woods, and relinquish the monopoly of the Bank’s top job. They ought to realize that it is not in the interest of their moral standing to use their combined 45% of the Bank’s stock to buck the aspiration of the emerging and developing economies to have one of their own head the Bank on merit. This is more so when the canvassed candidate is better qualified for the job than their own nominee.

The world’s economic landscape has been so radically transformed in the past few years that contributions to global economic growth and development has majorly shifted away from the old USA – Europe axis to the emergent BRICS economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Therefore, their voices combined with those of the other developing nations can no longer be muffled on the global stage. The din for ‘inclusiveness, multiculturalism and internationalism’ in the Bank’s structure, funding and decision-making has to be taken into account.

There is no doubt that Prof. Jose Ocampo is qualified for the post in his own right. However, the intimate knowledge and hands-on experience of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in the workings of the Bank give her the edge over both Prof. Ocampo and Dr. Jim Yong Kim. It will therefore make good sense that the BRICS and other developing countries should consult further and coordinate better with a view to having Prof. Ocampo to withdraw from the contest in order to give Dr. Okonjo-Iweala a brighter chance.

Dr. Okonji-Iweala, alone of the three candidates, has the cognate capacity to hit the ground running, and to apply the eclectic and composite experience she has garnered from administering the Bank’s programmes in Europe, Asia and Africa to the practical experience of running of a huge developing African economy such as Nigeria’s with its myriad of challenges. Therefore, she is best equipped to engineer and engender the necessary changes that can make the Bank more responsive to the actual aspirations of the regions most in need of development support.

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