U.S. Grip on World Bank Leadership Should End, Ex-Candidate Says

(Bloomberg) -- The World Bank’s top job should be open to candidates from all countries rather than being reserved for a U.S. nominee, as tradition has dictated for more than seven decades, according to a Colombian economist who ran for the job.

“The big question is whether this will be a transparent process or not,” said Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former finance minister of Colombia who was a candidate to be president of the World Bank in 2012. Jim Yong Kim, who was nominated by the U.S., was appointed to the role by the lender’s executive board, a move Ocampo says was a foregone conclusion.

U.S. Grip on World Bank Leadership Should End, Ex-Candidate Says

Kim stepped down early to join an investment firm last month, reigniting a debate over the unwritten tradition of the bank being led by an American, particularly as growing emerging markets feel they deserve a louder voice.

“In the case of the World Bank, its main objective is to support developing countries. It makes sense for developing countries to head the organization,” Ocampo said in a phone interview.

President Donald Trump is set to nominate senior Treasury official David Malpass to lead the World Bank, which committed nearly $64 billion in loans last year to developing countries and emerging markets. The lender’s executive board, which represents its 189 member countries, has the final say.

World Bank, IMF

Under an informal trans-Atlantic pact, Americans have led the institution since it was conceived during the Second World War, while the managing director of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, has always been European.

U.S. Grip on World Bank Leadership Should End, Ex-Candidate Says

Ocampo said he’s waiting to see how the selection process unfolds before deciding whether to run again. Countries have until March 14 to nominate candidates. The executive board says it’s committed to an “open, merit-based and transparent selection process.”

Malpass’s skepticism about international cooperation has raised concerns that he would be a bad fit at the bank, which relies on consensus among its member nations. In an interview in 2017, he argued that “multilateralism has gone substantially too far” by straying from the “values of limited government, freedom and the rule of law.”

U.S. Grip on World Bank Leadership Should End, Ex-Candidate Says

In a statement after Kim quit, the executive board said the next president should have a “firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation.” The appointee should also have experience managing large organizations with international exposure and a clear vision for the bank’s development mission.

“The World Bank president should be a strong multilateralist,” said Ocampo, a professor of international affairs on leave at Columbia University who sits on the board of Colombia’s central bank. Ocampo declined to comment directly on Malpass’s candidacy.

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