Okonjo-Iweala’s Fate To Be Decided Today As World Bank Board Votes New President

The World Bank’s 25 member executive board will today vote on who replaces outgoing president Robert Zoellick, whose term expires in June. The prognosis of the chances of the two remaining candidates  (Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the American Jim Yong Kim) shows that the American candidate remains odds on favourite to clinch the job.



Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Although the World Bank has always had its presidents emerge from the United States (US), this election features the prospect of a non-US candidate – Nigeria’s Minister for Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, NgoziOkonjo-Iweala.


The other non-US candidate, Colombia’s José Antonio Ocampo, had earlier stepped down for NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, in order, according to him “to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate”.

So far, the US, Canada, Mexico, Korea, Japan and Russia have said they will back Kim. NgoziOkonjoIweala, on the other hand has the backing of the African Union (AU). Meanwhile Sub-Saharan Africa has just 5.9 per cent of the vote at the World Bank.


Voting at the World Bank is usually proportional to, and in accordance with contributions of the member states to the Organisation, which means the Nigerian candidate’s chances are quite slim.


There are 25 executive directors who pick the president and only a few are from Africa. The five largest shareholders of the World Bank, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the US, each appoint an executive director. Russia, China and Saudi Arabia also elect their own members. The rest of the executive board is elected by the other members.


The US currently holds the largest voting share in the bank (15.85 percent), followed by Japan (6.84 percent). Combined, the two countries hold 22.69 percent of the votes on the executive board.


The voting share for other large shareholders is as follows: China (4.42 percent), Germany (4.00 percent), United Kingdom (3.75 percent), France (3.75 percent), India (2.91 percent), Russia (2.77 percent), Saudi Arabia (2.77 percent) and Italy (2.64 percent).


Other countries with increased voting power are South Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Singapore, Greece, Brazil, India and Spain.


According to KaluIdikaKalu, Former minister of finance and one time staff of the World Bank, “When we were at the World Bank, the staff were the least worried about the election of the president, it is more of lobbying based on the capital subscription/shareholding level of the members.


When a gentleman’s agreement cannot be reached, then the issue of elections comes up. So we need to wait and see what will happen before we can talk of election.”


For many observers, Jim Yong Kim, is more than likely to prevail, especially as the US supported Europe on the nomination of Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year.


Despite this, a number of global figures have argued that NgoziOkonjo-Iweala, can and should lead the Bank.


With these challengers has come renewed complaints about the U.S. monopoly on the presidency and calls for the bank’s leadership to better reflect the world’s evolving economic order.


In 2010, the United States and other World Bank shareholder-countries pledged support for an “open, merit-based and transparent” selection process for the next president. As part of this process, the bank’s board held interviews with Kim, Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala last week.


But despite such declarations, most analysts believe there is little doubt that Kim will secure the presidency. That’s because of the bank’s voting structure, which has long allowed the U.S. and Europe to impose their will in matters of leadership.


The United States and Europe together have roughly 50% of voting shares, which are based on money paid into the bank. Along with Japan, which has already pledged support for Kim, they form an unbeatable voting bloc.


Nevertheless, the emergence of strong candidates from the developing world — and Okonjo-Iweala in particular — has observers questioning whether the current arrangement remains tenable.


NgoziOkonjoIweala while speaking on a CNN interview yesterday said

“The development committee of the World Bank, as well as the G20, has signed onto a merit-based open and transparent process for selecting the president of the World Bank. That means that it should be done based on who is best qualified from anywhere, regardless of nationality.


So I think that, you know, we took that seriously. The leaders of the continent of Africa, who asked me to be a nominee, I think, took this seriously.”


African telecoms billionaire and sponsor of prizes for good governance, Mo Ibrahim, explained why a flawed nomination process is not in the interest of the Bank or even the US.


“While citizens across the world fight against cronyism, electoral malpractice and bad governance, we must ensure that our global public institutions set the right example. No-one can lecture developing countries on how to manage their processes, public and private sector, if they so brazenly do not conform to the same standards.”


Mo further argued that, “if this election process is not an open contest, it undermines the principle of fair competition that the US and the World Bank have traditionally exported to the rest of the world.”


The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), SanusiLamidoSanusi, speaking at the send-forth dinner for the outgoing International


Finance Corporation’s (IFC’s) Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa , also advised the United States, Europe and voting members of the World Bank to ensure that the next president of the Bretton Woods institution emerges based on merit.


Sanusi said: “We are talking about somebody who is competing, not because she is a Nigerian, black or a woman, but because of her curriculum vitae, her education, and her experience. There is simply no candidate out there, on merit that can compete with her. We do hope that the Americans and Europeans would practice what they preach to us and actually allow merit to reign.”


Major global newspapers such as the New York Times, The Economist and the Financial Times have also in recent times endorsed the Nigerian candidate.


Under a tacit agreement since the founding of the Institution in 1944, a US citizen has always led the World Bank, while a European citizen has always led the ‘sister organisation’ the International Monetary Fund (IMF).



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