Okonjo-Iweala: World Bank must mirror global shift

Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:00am EDT
 
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By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Emerging economies must be given a fair shot at leading the institutions at the heart of global finance or they will end up going their own way, a challenger for the top job at the World Bank said.

"The balance of power in the world has shifted and emerging market countries are contributing more and more to global growth - more than 50 percent - and they need to be given a voice in running things," Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters. "If you don't, they will lose interest.

Okonjo-Iweala, 57, was nominated on Friday by African power houses Nigeria, South Africa and Angola to lead the poverty-fighting institution when its current president Robert Zoellick steps down in June.

She is going up against Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert whose name was put forward by U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, who was nominated by Brazil.

It's the first time the post has ever been contested.

Under an informal agreement between the United States and its allies in Europe, Washington has laid claim to the top post at the World Bank since its founding after World War Two, while a European has always led the International Monetary Fund, its sister Bretton Woods institution.

Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, painted the convention as a vestige of a bygone era.

"We're not asking the U.S. not to compete, we're just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits," she said.   Continued...

 
Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria in this March 23, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files