Ex-World Bank managers back Nigerian for president

Agence France-Presse
A group of former World Bank officials on Wednesday endorsed Africa's candidate to lead the Bank, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

WORLD BANK-BOUND? Nigeria's finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala addresses the media on March 23, 2012 in Pretoria, South Africa. Okonjo-Iweala joined on March 23 the race for the top World Bank job, backed by Africa's leading economies in a push for greater influence at global financial bodies dominated by rich nations. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, flanked by counterparts from South Africa and Angola, unveiled her candidacy at a press conference in Pretoria, putting the weight of Africa's biggest economy and its two biggest oil producers behind her bid. AFP photo

WASHINGTON – A group of former World Bank officials on Wednesday endorsed Africa’s candidate to lead the Bank, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

In an open letter, 39 former managers and economists called on the Bank’s executive board to make their decision on merit, when the board for the first time considers more than one candidate for the job.

“We believe that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria,” they said.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, and Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former finance minister of Colombia, are competing with the US nominee Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College.

Under a tacit agreement, the US picks the World Bank president, always an American, and Europe puts a European at the helm of the International Monetary Fund, the Bank’s sister institution.

Writing in their personal capacity ahead of the candidate interviews next week, the ex-Bank officials said “we care too much for the institution and for its historic development mission not to speak up.”

The letter was signed by a number of Europeans, including Francois Bourguignon, who was the development lender’s chief economist in 2003-2007, as well as Barbara Kafka, an American who served over 33 years at the Bank in a range of posts.

Tunisia’s central bank chief, Mustapha Nabli, a former head of the Bank’s Middle East and North Africa region, also signed. His country has not endorsed a candidate.

Okonjo-Iweala “would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank’s hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to managing director.”

While the other two candidates also have strong qualifications, “she would be the outstanding World Bank president the times call for.”

The World Bank plans to select the successor to outgoing president Robert Zoellick by April 20, the start of its spring meetings with the IMF. – Agence France-Presse