39 World Bank ex-officials back Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala_2THE United Nations (UN) Secretariat has said its Secretary-General will not comment on the selection of a new President for the World Bank, but former top officials of the bank are endorsing Nigeria’s Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the job.

In a statement in Washington DC yesterday, 39 former managers and officials of the bank, who have held senior positions like vice president said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala would bring the combination of her experience as finance and foreign minister of a large and complex African country with her wide experience of working at all levels of the Bank’s hierarchy in different parts of the world, from agricultural economist to managing director.”

They noted that Okonjo-Iweala would be the first woman to head the institution.

The former World Bank officials affirmed: “We believe that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala has outstanding qualifications across the full range of relevant criteria,” needed to lead the global lending agency at a time like this.


“At this time of momentous changes in the world, when the global economy remains fragile as the aftershocks of the financial crisis continue to reverberate, Okonjo-Iweala’s deep experience in international and national issues of economic management, including links to sectoral initiatives, as well as her knowledge of the institution and how to increase its effectiveness would be invaluable assets.”

In their words, “she would hit the ground running and get things done from the start. In a word, she would be the outstanding World Bank President the times call for.”

They reminded the Bank’s executive directors that they “are making an important choice at a crucial moment for the future of the World Bank and of its role in a rapidly changing world. We hope that these thoughts will be of help as the directors deliberate and decide.”

But earlier on Wednesday afternoon at the UN headquarters in New York, a spokesperson to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon refrained from supporting the call to ensure that the selection process for the World Bank president be based on merit as already and earlier agreed by the G20 leaders and the shareholders of the World Bank last year.

Asked if the secretary-general would weigh in on the discussion on the selection, which is now a global issue, Martin Nesirky said it was improper for Secretary-General Ban “to inject himself into that process.”

Below is the question an answer at the daily press briefing at the UN in New York:

Question: I wanted to know the perspective of the secretary-general on the selection process for the next president of the World Bank. The shareholders last year did agree to have an open and transparent, merit-based process to select the next president. Does the secretary-general support that kind of an open process that is based on merit?

Spokesperson: Well, as I think you know, the international financial institutions have their own mandate and governance structure, and it would not be proper for the secretary-general to inject himself into that process. I think it is for the World Bank – the membership of the Bank to determine how the new president is selected.

Question: Do you consider the secretary-general making his view known on an issue that the shareholders of the World Bank generally agree, you think that if he makes his own views known on the fact that this process of selection should be open and transparent and merit-based, which is what they all agreed to, you consider that to be, that he is injecting himself into the process?

Spokesperson: I said it would be improper for him to comment on that while there is a process under way

All three nominees for the position are to be interviewed next week at the bank headquarters in Washington DC and a choice expected to be made and announced publicly soon after just in time for the Bank’s spring meetings later this month.


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