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World Bank presidency: Okonjo-Iweala challenges US

Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that “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.”

Okonjo-Iweala, who is developing countries candidate for the World Bank presideny said this in an interview with Reuters on Monday.

According to her, “the balance of power in the world has shifted and emerging market countries are contributing more and more to global growth – more than 50 per cent – and they need to be given a voice in running things.”

“If you don’t, they will lose interest,” Okonjo Iweala told Reuters.

The 57-year old Nigeria’s economy top shot, was jointly nominated on Friday by Nigeria, South Africa and Angola to lead the poverty-fighting institution when its current president Robert Zoellick steps down in June.

She is expected to have a keen contest with United States nominee, Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert whose name was, on Friday, put forward by US president, Barack Obama, while a former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, who was also nominated by Brazil.

This year marks the first time ever that the post will be contested.

Before now, the United States has laid claim to the World Bank top post since its founding after World War II, under an informal agreement between the US and its allies in Europe.

Likewise, Europeans have always led the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its sister Bretton Woods institution.
“Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, painted the convention as a vestige of a bygone era,” Reuters said.

“We’re not asking the US not to compete, we are just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits, Okonjo Iweala said.

Reuters has described Okonjo-Iweala, a former World Bank managing director, as someone “known for her colorful African head wraps and dresses, saying, she “contrasted her experience with that of Kim, who made his mark battling disease in some of the poorest corners of the world.”

Okonjo-Iweala in her interview with Reuters noted that she had hands-on experience running one of Africa’s largest economies, as well as a proven track record at the World Bank helping nations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East tap financial markets to fund development.

“I don’t have a learning curve because I know how the institution works and I know what needs to be done to make it work better and faster for developing countries,” she said.

“I know what its strengths are, its weaknesses and importantly I know what policymakers need. I’ve actually done it.”

US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, had told Reuters over the weekend that he was confident that Kim, president of Dartmouth College, would win global support for the job.

“Through his work in fighting HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and getting health care to the poor, Kim had shown an ability to get things done in tough environments,” Geithner said.

Okonjo-Iweala admitted that if the United States, the nation with the largest World Bank voting bloc, and Europe held together, her candidacy would be doomed. But she expressed hope the World Bank’s 187 member nations would hold true to their pledge for an open, merit-based process.

“We are not just going into this saying to ourselves we are already defeated,” she said, speaking by telephone from Abuja.

“We are hoping that the Bretton Woods institutions and their shareholders will keep their word.”

“My biggest hope is that this will be a fair contest.”

Okonjo-Iweala, who was named by Forbes magazine last year as one of the world’s 100 most powerful women, said African leaders would be discussing her nomination with other developing and emerging economies including China, the World Bank’s third-largest shareholder.

Her political situation in Nigeria is difficult. She left the World Bank last year to become the lead economic architect in Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet.

A long-time anti-corruption campaigner, she immediately sought to implement politically tough reforms. One of her first moves was to remove fuel subsidies, a step that sparked widespread protests that forced the government to back down in January

Now, her opponents are attacking her over the World Bank nomination, saying it showed disloyalty to her country and its president. Jonathan backed Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination after calls from South African President Jacob Zuma and West African nations led by Ivory Coast’s president Alassane Outtara.


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Posted by on Mar 29 2012. Filed under Africa & World Politics, American Politics, Headlines, Women Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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