4 April 2012

Nigeria: World Bank - Okonjo-Iweala Gets More Endorsements

Photo: Stephen Jaffe/IMF
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Lagos.

Barely five days to the commencement of interviews that will produce the next World Bank president, leaders around the world have thrown their weight behind Nigeria's Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of the three contenders for the position.

Though the nation's coordinating minister for the economy and minister of finance was nominated for the World Bank highest position by Angola, Nigeria and South Africa, and endorsed by the African Union (AU) as the continent's sole candidate, globally bodies and institutions have backed the nomination, describing her as capable of leading the reforms needed by the global bank.

Throwing her weight behind the Finance Minister in a Financial Times publication, yesterday, Arunma Oteh, Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission said it was time for the US to relinquish its traditional hold on the World Bank's presidency and, in cooperation with other World Bank shareholder governments, to open the job up to non-American candidates.

According to her, the emerging world offers a first-class candidate in Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. At this moment of geo-political soul-searching, global financial leaders have a unique opportunity to earn credibility by the way they handle the election of a new president of the World Bank.

"It is time for the institution to respond to the major shift in the global flow of resources, investment and trade that we are witnessing - from the west to emerging and frontier economies," she said.

Oteh noted that the World Bank, a foundation of the post-1945 economic order, remains critical to global economic growth and macro-economic stability. Ever since the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, there has been a growing call for reform of the international financial system. This call is now becoming louder than ever with the global economic slowdown and the threats to financial stability posed by the sovereign debt crisis.

"It is in this context that we must see the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala to succeed Robert Zoellick at the World Bank as a compelling opportunity for the US and other advanced economies to demonstrate that control over international financial issues is not the sole preserve of established superpowers," the SEC DG stated.

Recall that the Financial Times of London, the globally respected newspaper on business and economy, earlier endorsed Dr. Okonjo-Iweala for the job.

In its editorial published on Tuesday, FT argued that she should get the job.

While recognising that the US candidate Jim Yong Kim "could be a good choice" because of his background in health and his managerial experience at the World Health Organisation, the FT states that "the Bank needs more than this".

"Its new leader should have a command of macroeconomics, the respect of leaders of both the funding and the funded countries, and the management skills to implement his or her vision. These requirements make Ms Okonjo-Iweala the best person for the role," the newspaper said.

Foreign envoys in Nigeria were rallied to seek their countries' supports for Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala, in her quest to assume office as World Bank president.

The minister of state for foreign affairs, Prof. Viola Onwuliri, told the envoys during a meeting in Abuja, that Okonjo-Iweala was highly qualified for the position.

She said: "We expect that, at this time, the world would have graduated from sentiments and attention should be focused on the future of the World Bank and not the nationalities of the candidates.

"Dr. Okonjo-Iweala epitomizes the kind of visionary leadership, courage and innovation needed for the bank today. She will hit the ground running in leading the bank. It is my pleasure to present Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to you as candidate for the presidency of the World Bank, and urge for the support of your various governments for this exceptional nominee.

Also, leaders of Russia, Brazil, China, India and South Africa, who recently met under BRICS, called for the review of the weighted voting system that gave Europe, the United States of America and Japan 54 per cent of the votes in the selection of the World Bank president.

In apparent realisation of the advantageous position of both Europe and the United States in the selection process, the meeting in New Delhi, India, demanded that the heads of the IMF and World Bank be chosen through an open, merit-based process.

Still in support of her candidacy is an international non-governmental organisation, Youth Aid Organisation for Africa (VAOFA), which decried the dominance of the United States and Europe in both the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, canvassing that Africa should be allowed to lead the World Bank.

The World Bank's board of directors normally choose the president through a system of weighted voting in which the United States has 16 per cent, the European Union states altogether 29 per cent, and Japan 9 per cent, making a total of 54 per cent.

On the home front, President Goodluck Jonathan, the House of Representatives and indeed all Nigerians are in support of the candidature of Okonjo-Iweala for the bank's top job.

Okonjo-Iweala will slug it out with US nominee and President of Dartmouth College Jim Kim, and Colombian national Jose Antonio Ocampo, a professor at Columbia University who was nominated by Brazil.

Agency Report

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