US Grip on World Bank Challenged

America’s traditional grip on the presidency of the World Bank is expected to be challenged for the first time with the nominations for the post from Nigeria and Colombia.

By Louise Armitstead, The Telegraph

March 21, 2012

The Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, are reportedly being put forward to replace Robert Zoellick who is retiring.

Ever since the World Bank was established at the Bretton Woods conference after the Second World War, an American has always led it. The understanding also upholds the traditional that a European always heads the International Monetary Fund, created in the wake of the same conference.

Leaders of developing economies have called for a break in the tradition but have so far failed to get enough support from other countries.

Sources told Reuters that Mr Okonjo-Iweala and Mr Ocampo have gathered support from key countries such as South Africa and Brazil.

Mr Okonjo-Iweala was managing director of the World Bank until last year when he left to become Nigeria’s finance minister. Mr Ocampo was the former under-secretary for economic and social affairs at the United Nations (UN).

Domenico Lombardi, a former World Bank board official now at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told Reuters: “The impressive credentials of both Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala puts tremendous pressure on the White House to come up with a candidate of at least equivalent standing.” He added: “This signals a big shift and really reflects a game change. This is the first time in history we have a truly contested election.”

Washington is expected to announce its nominations as early as Friday. America is said to be keen to back a female candidate. The 25 members of the World Bank are expected to decide on the next president over the next month.

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