WASHINGTON, USA – US President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the World Bank, ex-Mastercard chief executive officer Ajay Banga, said he will visit Europe, Asia, Africa, and potentially Latin America in coming weeks to meet with donor countries and borrowers.
Speaking with reporters at the US Treasury Department, Banga said he believes the scientific evidence on climate change, and underscored the need for the bank to continue to work on poverty reduction and inequality, while also tackling the “intertwined” challenges posed by climate change.
“You cannot have economic prosperity without caring about nature, pandemics, fragility, food availability – this is our new world,” Banga said. “You need to understand that the challenges are multiplied and are multipolar.”
Biden last week nominated Banga, 63, to head the World Bank, betting the India-born executive’s ties to the private sector and decades of experience in emerging markets will bring fresh momentum to a US-led push to overhaul the 77-year-old institution to better address climate change.
Banga, now a US citizen, would replace outgoing president David Malpass, who announced his resignation last month after months of controversy after he fumbled an answer on whether he accepted the scientific consensus on climate change, and escalating pressure by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for him to adopt “bolder and more imaginative” reforms at the bank.
Banga said he had already won support from India, Ghana, and Kenya, but hoped to visit as many countries around the world “as logistically possible” over the next three weeks to understand their priorities and concerns so he could “hit the ground running” if he was elected.
While the bank will accept nominations from other countries until March 29, Biden’s nomination all but assures that Banga will assume a job that oversees billions of dollars of funding for developing countries. The World Bank has been headed by someone from the US, the lender’s dominant shareholder, since its founding at the end of World War II.
Asked about a US-led push to stretch the bank’s balance sheet and boost its lending capacity, Banga said the bank must “do all it can” to work through recommendations prepared for the Group of 20 major economies by an independent commission last year, while still protecting the bank’s AAA credit rating.
Banga, who oversaw the expansion of Mastercard’s market capitalization to $360 billion from $20 billion during his 12-year tenure there, said it was imperative to secure private sector investment to generate the trillions of dollars needed to combat climate change and eradicate extreme poverty.
His work on the Partnership for Central America, which has generated over $4 billion in private funds, showed the power of public-private partnerships, and would help inform his work at the bank, he said.
Reflecting on criticism that the Biden administration had not picked a woman to lead the bank for the first time in its history, Banga highlighted his upbringing, education, and early career in India, and said Washington’s objective was to bring “a different way of thinking to leadership at the bank.”
He said he was convinced that “giving people a level playing field is our job…and that means whether you’re a woman, your color, your sexual orientation, growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
“This is not about gender. It’s about a fair opportunity to everyone.” – Rappler.com
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