Published On: Thu, Apr 11th, 2013

Call for Nigerian to head World Bank job should go to Okonjo-Iweala, say ex-staff

Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, currently Nigeria's finance minister, is also a former World Bank managing director

World Bank job

A group of former World Bank officials have written a letter backing Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to be its next president.

Traditionally the post is given to the candidate put forward by the US, which this time is Dr Jim Yong Kim.

But in an open letter, 39 former economists and managers said the Bank should choose the next chief on merit.

Three candidates are up for the job, the first time the World Bank has had to make a choice.

The executive board of the Bank has to choose between Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former finance minister of Colombia, and Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College.

The World Bank is holding interviews next week and plans to select the successor to outgoing president Robert Zoellick by 20 April, when it starts its spring meetings with the IMF.


The letter, which is signed by high-ranking managers and economists, including Tunisia’s central bank chief, Mustapha Nabli, said: “We believe that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria.”

They said they cared too much about the institution not to speak out.

Under an informal agreement, the US choses its own person as the World Bank president. In return, Europe appoints a European as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is the Bank’s sister institution.

Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde, Europe’s choice, was the most recent appointment to the IMF.

Emerging economies have become increasingly unhappy with this arrangement and are pushing for change.

The letter says that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala “would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank’s hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to managing director”.

It says “she would be the outstanding World Bank president the times call for”.

Mr Ocampo has been gathering his own support from a global cross-section of economists, including former central bank chiefs and the heads of international agencies.

Dr Kim, who once did a turn as a rap artist at a social event at Dartmouth College, has the support of Canada, Japan and South Korea, where he was born, as well as the US.



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