US faces deadline to nominate World Bank chief

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 23, 2012 7:32 EDT
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Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala via AFP
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The United States faced a deadline Friday to nominate a new World Bank chief, as strong candidates backed by emerging countries ramped up the pressure on Washington to name a high-profile figure.

The White House has until 6:00 pm (2200 GMT) to nominate a candidate to succeed Robert Zoellick at the helm of the world lender, a post traditionally held by an American according to a tacit agreement with Europe.

But on Thursday White House spokesman Jay Carney said he had “no news to make on the World Bank front.”

And it was not known whether the United States would publicly announce its nominee on Friday or wait until the candidates are officially validated by the Bank’s 25 executive directors.

On Friday South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said his Nigerian counterpart Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala would run for the top job.

“We are proud to confirm that the Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala will be a candidate,” Pravin Gordhan told reporters at press conference, standing alongside her.

Earlier Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shot to the top of the rumor mill filling the news vacuum after a former Colombian finance minister and central bank chief, Jose Antonio Ocampo, announced his candidacy Wednesday.

An American has always served as World Bank head and a European has always led the International Monetary Fund due to a tacit agreement among Western nations dating back to the founding of the institutions nearly 70 years ago.

But the traditional arrangement governing the two 187-nation bodies has triggered outrage from developing and emerging nations seeking greater representation to reflect their rising contribution to the global economy.

The race to lead the World Bank was set in motion after Zoellick announced on February 15 he was stepping down at the end of his term on June 30.

Upon his resignation, the US Treasury immediately reaffirmed its “leadership role” in the World Bank and said it would announce a candidate within weeks, but has since remained silent on the matter.

Clinton has long been among the most circulated names rumored to be under consideration by President Barack Obama, along with UN ambassador Susan Rice, Democratic Senator John Kerry and former Treasury secretary Larry Summers.

Though Clinton repeatedly has insisted she is not interested in the job, it is highly possible that she may give in to White House pressure, the source close to the World Bank said.

If not, “Rice’s prospects seem the strongest,” the source said, and “Summers hasn’t been totally ruled out.”

Another American, economist Jeffrey Sachs, has garnered support for his self-declared candidacy from small developing countries.

Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has a decades-long career in development and poverty eradication and headed the United Nations’s Millennium Development Goals project.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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