World Bank must mirror global shift: Okonjo-Iweala

Mon Mar 26, 2012 12:20pm 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.

"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 in an interview released on Monday. "If you don't, they will lose interest."

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

Also nominated for the post are 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 is also the first time the post has ever been so hotly 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 said fast-growing emerging economies were becoming too powerful and influential in the world economy to continue denying them the leadership posts at global financial bodies.

Leaders of the so-called BRICS nations China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa will meet at a summit in India next week to discuss the world economy and closer coordination.   Continued...