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THE APPOINTMENT OF THE WORLD BANK PRESIDENT: NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA HAS THE CREDENTIALS BUT JIM YONG KIM HAS OBAMA’S VOTE…

‘Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – a formidable economist

The World Bank, the world’s leading development institute, will begin interviewing three nominees for the post of Bank president this week. The selection of the 12th President of the World Bank is interesting in that for the first time in 70 years there are non-US challengers for the top job. It looks like the decision will be a formality, not because there is one outstanding candidate, although there is, but because the vote is rigged from the outset.

The three candidates are Columbia’s former Finance Minister and a former head of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jose Antonio Ocampo; Jim Yong Kim, an American public health professor; and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former managing director of the World bank and currently Nigeria’s finance minister.

Ideally the President of the World Bank should have a good knowledge of economics, finance, government, and of course, development. One of the three nominees for the post has such credentials, two do not, but unfortunately the job will probably not be awarded on merit.

Mr Ocampo is essentially a bureaucrat and his tenure as Columbia’s finance minister (1996-98) was marked chiefly by a massive increase in the country’s budget deficit. He has the backing of some academics but his CV surely does not suggest the breadth and depth of experience, or knowledge that should be required to become President of the World Bank.

At least Ocampo, however, has some attributes that fit the bill. Jim Yong Kim appears to have none.

KIM WHO?

Mr Kim was head of the HIV/AIDS programme at the World Health Organisation (WHO) and also, err…, well that’s about it. Worthy perhaps but nowhere good enough.

Mr Who?

Kim would have never even have been considered as the World Bank’s President if it were not for the fact that he has been nominated by Barrack Obama and now has, as a result, the support of the European governments, of which more in a minute.

NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA – A FORMIDABLE ECONOMIST

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala candidature however, does tick all the boxes. ‘A formidable public economist’, she is in second term as Nigeria’s Finance Minister and is generally regarded have done a very good job, improving the country’s finances and making strides to clean up Nigeria’s culture of corruption. Moreover, in her time as managing director of the World Bank (2007-11) she was widely praised (little wonder then that she has received the support of former senior managers and economists at the Bank).

So why not Ms Okonjo-Iweala for President of the World Bank? On merit she’d get it.

BARRACK OBAMA’S VOTE

The problem is that US President Barrack Obama is backing Jim Yong Kim and last year he backed France’s Christine Lagard as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) so the European Union in return are backing his nomination for President of the World Bank. The US also has a bigger vote (they are allocated by size of a country’s contribution to the World Bank’s fund) and has the power of veto over the appointment.

Could Barrack Obama change his mind? It is unlikely. This is, after all, election year in the United States and Obama must be seen to back US interests in this matter.

So, it’s a stitch up. The best woman for the job probably won’t get it.

This is all very regrettable on several levels. Career open to talent is something the world has been striving for over the last two hundred and fifty years or more. Cronyism in Africa is rightly condemned, not least, and often, by representatives of the United States: the US and EU supporting Mr Kim sets a bad example. And the Kenya Forum repeats, Ms Okonjo-Iweala is the best person for the job of President of the World Bank: she should get it.


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