Nigerian WB candidate eyes nimble, fast and knowledgeable agency

April 10, 2012
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Okonjo-Iweala said she fully supported a transparent and merit-based bank presidency selection/XINHUA
WASHINGTON, Apr 10 – Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a candidate for World Bank presidency, said Monday that she would aim at building the World Bank into a “nimble, fast and knowledgeable” organization if she were at the helm of the bank.

These would be the three keywords for the future World Bank under her leadership, the former managing director of the World Bank told Xinhua in an interview after speaking to a group of experts and reporters in Washington D.C.

Okonjo-Iweala went through a formal interview with the bank’s executive board earlier in the day and attended an event co-hosted by the Washington Post and the Washington-based think-tank Center for Global Development.

The World Bank needs a shake-up to improve its efficiency and effectiveness and “everything we do must end with measurable results,” said Okonjo-Iweala.

Global landscape is changing and the global governance should change in line with it, said Okonjo-Iweala. She faces an uphill battle for the post against U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, who has won support of key shareholders including Japan and South Korea.

Okonjo-Iweala said she fully supported a transparent and merit-based bank presidency selection, saying “let the best person win.”

When asked about her biggest contribution to the World Bank presidency contest this year, the veteran economist noted she has helped shape the historic process that was unstoppable.

“I think whatever the case may be or whoever wins, it can never be the same for the World Bank in choosing its leader,” she said.

Okonjo-Iweala said she was a strong believer of an open selection process and backed staging debates among contenders, adding that “the World Bank is a public institution and I see no reason why the people vying for that post should not be subject to open debates for people to ask questions”.

The World Bank, a key part of the Bretton Woods system, has always been headed by an American since its inception after the Second World War. This year’s presidency selection marked the first time that an American candidate has been challenged by others from developing countries.

“I don’t think the Bretton Woods system is dead. I think the Bretton Woods system needs to evolve and is perfectly capable of evolving” in a bid to keep in sync with evolving economic weights and the desire for better global governance from developing countries, she said.

“The World Bank has started on the path of reforming its governance,” she noted, adding that the continuing conversation between its member countries seeking bigger voting shares and those to give up voting power needed to be handled with great care.

The Bretton Woods system, which became operational in 1945, set up a system of rules and institutions including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), part of today’s World Bank and its sister agency the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to regulate the international monetary and economic governance. In 1971, the United States unilaterally terminated convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold, a pillar of the system.

The 25-member executive board of the Washington-based bank was scheduled to interview Jose Antonio Ocampo, former Colombian finance minister on Tuesday, and Kim, a Korean-American global health expert and president of Dartmouth College, on Wednesday.

The World Bank is expected to pick a candidate by its Spring Meetings scheduled to kick off in Washington D.C. on April 20, to replace Robert Zoellick, whose term ends in June. Enditem

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