Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (L) and Dr. Jim Yong Kim
Despite her spirited efforts to land the World Bank top job, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has lost out to US nominee, Jim Yong Kim in the race to become the new President of the Bank.
The Korean-American health expert is currently the president of Dartmouth University.
Although details of the voting by the 25-member executive board of the bank are yet to be released, Yong Kim will succeed Robert Zoellick, serving a five-year term beginning on July 1, the World Bank announced.
The race for the presidency of the Bretton Woods institution had been narrowed down to two candidates - Nigeria’s Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American Physician and United States’ nominee - after the former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, withdrew his candidacy at the weekend.
In fact, Ocampo had thrown his weight behind the Nigerian finance minister, describing her as an "excellent candidate". Zoellick’s tenure expires on June 30.
The US, which is the bank's largest shareholder, traditionally picks the bank's president. The country, Europe and Japan have 54 per cent of the votes.
Under an informal arrangement, in return, Europe appoints a European as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a sister Bretton Woods’ institution. It is currently run by Frenchwoman, Christine Lagarde.
According to the World Bank’s Articles, the president is the chief operating officer of the bank and conducts, under the direction of the executive directors, the ordinary business of the bank. The bank's president is also responsible for the organisation, appointment and dismissal of the officers and staff, subject to the general control of the executive directors.
US’ choice of Kim has been greeted with mixed feelings. Some commentators argued that he lacks experience in boosting economic growth, a key part of the bank’s mission.
Observers had been curious that Kim had not even appeared on any major American interview. It had been suggested that his handlers were worried that he might make a slip, which would bring the issue of merit to the fore once again.
“That is why they have resulted to issuing press releases about his visits to different parts of the world,” one of them noted.
However, Okonjo-Iweala, who had also served as managing director of the multilateral institution, had the support of other emerging economies.
The Bretton Woods institution, founded in 1944 has 187-member countries. US, France, Germany, Japan and United Kingdom - who are the five largest shareholders - appoint five executive directors, while China, Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia each elects its own executive director, with other executive directors elected by the other member countries.
This is the first presidential election with 25 voting members as one more member was added on November 1, 2010. Similarly, this is the first time that a candidate from a developing nation challenged a US nominee for the plum job.
Okonjo-Iweala when interviewed by the World Bank board last week had promised to tackle global poverty and address issues of job creation if elected.
However, despite Okonjo-Iweala’s failure to land the plum job, analysts still believe that the major thing that Nigeria had achieved in the whole process was that- with the issue of merit in the fore, candidates from the developing economies for subsequent elections, will be strengthened the more, to come forward and push for merit.