Okonjo Iweala, others Tipped for World Bank Presidency

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Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is among the candidates being proposed to take over the presidency of the World Bank, with the incumbent Robert Zoellick, having served notice that he would step down in June.

Ngozi was a former managing director of the bank until late last year when he resigned to become Nigeria’s finance minister, for the second time in less than a decade. She is the favorite of Nancy Birdsall, head of the Center for Global Development, who stressed that the selection process “needs to be competitive” and truly open to any candidate.

Birdsall has also proposed Nandan Nilekania, the Indian co-founder of INFOSYS.

It is crucial that “whoever ends up in the job has the legitimacy that a person that is truly competent would ensure,” she said in a phone interview with the AFP.

It is not clear yet whether Ngozi would dump Nigeria for the World bank job.

But the race is much hotter with Americans with renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, who led the UN committee on the Millennium development goals, throwing his hat in the ring Friday in a Washington Post op-ed piece, saying the World Bank needs an expert like himself rather than another politician or Wall Street banker.

Sachs’s declaration came amid signs the United States is eyeing others for the high-profile job.

“The United States signaled that it was looking at the possibility of nominating (Treasury Secretary Timothy) Geithner, (one of his predecessors Larry) Summers, or someone from the private sector like (Pimco chief executive) Mohamed El-Erian,” said a person close to the World Bank, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Those three have remained mum on their interest in heading the global development lender.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also has been widely mentioned in the media as a possibilty. Geithner’s deputy for international affairs, Lael Brainard, has drawn some attention as well.

With the deadline for nominations three weeks away, the competition “is beginning to pick up speed,” the source said.

One thing seems certain, though: despite a chorus of calls from emerging markets and NGOs for a non-American to lead the development lender, in the name of the “new normal” global economy, the United States, as the biggest stakeholder, is expected to decide the winner.

The World Bank has promised the selection process will be “merit-based and transparent” and open to candidates from its 187 member nations.

But in an unwritten pact since the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund nearly seven decades ago, the US has always put an American at the helm of the Bank and Europe has ensconced a European as IMF managing director.

But the clamor for an alternative has grown louder.

After Zoellick announced two weeks ago he was stepping down on June 30 at the end of his five-year term, China and Brazil called for a fair, competitive selection process

Neither has put forth an alternative candidate, at least not yet.

Bangladesh prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has suggested Muhammad Yunus, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in microfinance.

On Friday Yunus flatly ruled out taking the job, but the person close to the World Bank suggested that Yunus may still emerge as a candidate.

“But right now it isn’t the intention of the Indian director on the board to propose him.”

An Indian director holds the board seat shared by India and Bangladesh.

The source said Brazil would probably nominate someone, with some speculation focusing on former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Washington is maintaining a vault-like silence on its preferred candidate.

Traditionally it has been a high-powered diplomat — like Zoellick — or someone from the financial sector.

Clinton would be a popular choice, many say, and she has said she wants to retire as the country’s top diplomat by January, the end of President Barack Obama’s first term.

But she has also repeatedly insisted she does not want the post.

Geithner, too, has said he wants out of Washington by January, though not as strongly as Clinton.

Because of a controversy when he was World Bank chief economist in the 1990s, “Summers would be perceived as an affront for the Africans,” the source said.

Pimco’s El-Erian, the head of the world’s biggest bond fund, might solve a problem of “internationalizing” the job: he has both French and Egyptian roots, while also maintaining US citizenship.

El-Erian, who worked for several years at the IMF, could appeal to the emerging countries, the source said, “but it still is necessary to convince him to accept” the new job.

Sachs, who directs the Earth Institute at Columbia University and is a special adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, made an argument for a more qualitative change.

“Unlike previous World Bank presidents, I don’t come from Wall Street or US politics. I am a practitioner of economic development, a scholar and a writer. My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, not with a corporate balance sheet or a government,” he said in the Washington Post.

“Finding the graceful way forward, forging the networks that can create global change, should be the bank’s greatest role,” Sachs said. “I’ll stand on my record of helping to create those networks.”

The deadline for nominations is March 23. The World Bank has set a goal of picking the new president by the World Bank-IMF meetings on April 20-22.


  1. Teeppy

    Move on i luv u ma

  2. Igiri Oke (The Peak)

    market does not know if one does not visit to buy.
    Make she go!

  3. Francis cole

    Ha ha ha ha ha another 419 story. Let her go. We dont need her period.

  4. danny

    i frown at d manner wit which we destroy our own. And i have seriously noticed dat those wit these comments are jst mediocrities. jst bcos u don’t have any as gud as she is, does nt give u d rite 2 talk abt her. she is d best at wat she does, take it or leave it. pls write comments dat are educative and objective and nt one dat intends 2 insult. ‘Mediocrity Knows Nothing Better Than Itself’. God bless you all.

  5. Okikiola Beckley

    Stop deceiving yourselves. That position is STRICTLY for Americans.

  6. Seyyi

    Even though castigated by many at home, Dr. Iweala still stands tall in the league of the greats in planet earth. it is about time we started appreciating our own. We as a nation must support her to succeed in this role.

  7. Musbau Abdulazeez

    Unlike Okonjo Iweala who is not known for scholarship and is a mediocre economist, Jeffrey Sachs is a respected development economist, defender of the poor and above all a thorough bred visionary who understands theoretical and practical economics than all the bandied candidates. Iweala’s achievements so far was made possible as a result of her closeness to certain politicians in Nigeria and America. Sachs is apolitical. I have read most of his books. If Iweala believes she’s smart, why hasn’t she been able to proffer workable solutions to Nigeria’s economic problems having been part of the destructive economic class destroying our nation? She is rather comfortable extorting Nigerians by earning salaries in dollars in the name of serving the country.

  8. John Olufemi

    This is wrong information because there is no way any other national can take up the position. It is solely for the US. This much is alluded to in the story. So it beats the informed reader why PM news will even think of making this a headline story. Why are Nigerians so obsessed with positions in international institutions that cannot bite, but bark. Take a cue from the Chinese, The Koreans and Malaysians. Economies are only built through self reliance and not on those theories and messy curves we are taught in Economics classes. By the way what is Okonjo’s pedigree in managing an economy or a business outfit at that? Her academic qualifications are by the way very much respected. Nigeria is in need of quality leadership and not this bunch of organized criminals.

  9. J.T.I.

    Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan (Canada), I thank you for your interest in Nigeria affairs while still in far away Canada. Unfortunately, both comments of yours that I read here do not satisfy me even though they were not meant for me alone. From this one on Okonjo-Iweala, you presented her as a confused economist mentioning all the confusions she has created for Nigeria. I think it will help us in Nigeria so much if you will come up with better economic policies for Nigeria that will be printed in renowned newspapers and even send some copies to offices and ministries of finance and like ministries; surely they will be used someday instead of castigating this woman baselessly. Again if she finally grips this W/Bank job, people like you may be considered for her office here in Nigeria or you will not leave Canada? Four or so days ago, I read a comment from you about a Yoruba actress who lied she never involved in accident.

  10. Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan

    It would be spiritual prayers of patroitic Nigerians answered by Almighty Jehovah God if, Dr Okonjo-Iweala could resign and go back to her real job at the World Bank.Dr Ngozi Iweala’s in Nigeria to deliver Western nations-imperial-micro-economic failed system of impoverishing-our people,foisting deadly-economic suffering,darkness,under-development,social-chaos on Nigerians.Dr Ngozi Iweala’s naive about the economic,social vital needs of Nigerian people that could open our country to infrastructures development and economic growth,hence Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala must resign and go back to her imperialistic-Western World clients and stop pretending to serve any good toward Nigeria economic and social advancement.Debts upon debts and further president Jonathan external borrowing begets largescal foreign debts and deeper pains and poverty in Nigeria.Nigerians must stop being tribalists and ethnicists which serves no good benefits to Nigeria. Dr Pat Kolawole Awosan,Canada.

  11. Tiena Jr.

    …she can go, after all, she has paid her due at the World Bank, and back home in Nigeria. Goodluck with the decisions at the World Bank anyway.

  12. AB

    Iweala u can’t go bcos u never solve d subsidy problem u created in Nigeria.its ur right but we wil not allow you bcos our president doesn’t understand ur economic grammar.

    1. PLAIN

      dis madam does not kno were to stay i kno she cannot perform any miracle anywhere cos all she understands is billions of dollars, credit facility, borrow, increase dis and dat, remove subsidy and dat plus watever. she is suppose to go back and read animal farm so as to know aw it all started.

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