Obama weighs pick for World Bank

For­eign can­di­dates emerge for po­si­tion that has al­ways gone to an Amer­i­can

The Washington Times Daily - - Business - BY DAVID HOOD

Pres­i­dent Obama is go­ing down to the wire on nam­ing his can­di­date for the pres­i­dent of the World Bank, even as for­eign can­di­dates have emerged for a post that has al­ways gone to an Amer­i­can.

Nom­i­na­tions to suc­ceed re­tir­ing World Bank Pres­i­dent Robert Zoel­lick are due Fri­day, and Mr. Obama has taken an un­usu­ally long time re­veal­ing his pref­er­ence for one of the top jobs in the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial hi­er­ar­chy.

“I still think in the end, be­fore Fri­day, there will be some­one else,” said Claude Barfield, res­i­dent scholar at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, “un­less the ad­min­is­tra­tion has some sort of se­cret decision that they’re not go­ing to do it.”

White House press sec­re­tary Jay Car­ney told re­porters Wed­nes­day he had no up­dates on the World Bank post, but Lawrence Mcdon­ald, vice pres­i­dent for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pol­icy out­reach for the Cen­ter for Global De­vel­op­ment, said it was highly un­likely the U.S. gov­ern­ment would pass on the op­por­tu­nity to in­stall its own can­di­date in the job, how­ever dif­fi­cult choos­ing from the pool of can­di­dates may be.

“The fact that they have not yet nom­i­nated a can­di­date sug­gests that they’re hav­ing dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing some­body who they are con­fi­dent could get the suf­fi­cient sup­port,” he said.

An Amer­i­can has headed the World Bank and a Euro­pean the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund since the two in­sti­tu­tions were cre­ated in the final days of World War II. But the du­op­oly has come un­der in­creas­ing crit­i­cism from ris­ing pow­ers in the de­vel­op­ing world in re­cent years.

Mr. Barfield said that it may be time for the U.S. and Europe to give up their nam­ing rights to the top fi­nan­cial posts.

“I ac­tu­ally think we should have given it up, throw it open to a real con­test,” he said. “There are plenty of good econ­o­mists around the world who can do the job as well as a U.S. or Euro­pean econ­o­mist.”

Two non-amer­i­can can­di­dates have been men­tioned promi­nently in re­cent days as the United States de­layed an­nounc­ing its choice. Nige­rian Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ngozi Okonjo-iweala, a for­mer World Bank man­ag­ing di­rec­tor backed by many top African na­tions, an­nounced she was not ac­tively “seek­ing” the pres­i­dency while Colom­bia is of­fer­ing ex-fi­nance Min­is­ter Jose An­to­nio Ocampo as a can­di­date.

Be­cause of the large in­vest­ment the U.S. has in the World Bank, Clay Low­ery, for­mer Trea­sury as­sis­tant sec­re­tary for in­ter­na­tional af­fairs, said Washington will have a “heavy say” in the choice and that the White House will come to a decision Fri­day with­out ex­tend­ing the dead­line.

“Who­ever the next pres­i­dent will be should be fo­cused like a laser beam on what the mis­sion and their vi­sion of the World Bank is,” said Mr. Low­ery, now with Rock Creek Global Ad­vi­sors.

Un­til Mr. Ocampo’s dec­la­ra­tion on Wed­nes­day, only de­vel­op­ment econ­o­mist Jef­frey Sachs, di­rec­tor of Columbia Univer­sity’s Earth In­sti­tute, has openly de­clared his can­di­dacy for the World Bank job — with or with­out an ex­ec­u­tive branch en­dorse­ment. There have also been a num­ber of names that have been men­tioned who could be on Mr. Obama’s short list.

A brief flurry of re­ports last year that Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton was con­sid­er­ing the post were quickly shot down, and a State Depart­ment of­fi­cial con­firmed this week that Mrs. Clin­ton “isn’t go­ing any­where.”

Still said to be in the run­ning were for­mer Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Lawrence H. Sum­mers; U.S. U.N. Am­bas­sador Su­san Rice; for­mer Coun­cil of Eco­nomic Ad­vis­ers chief Christina Romer; New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg; and In­dra Nooyi, the In­dian-born head of Pep­sico.

Mr. Barfield said grum­bling by ris­ing pow­ers such as China, In­dia and Brazil over the U.S. mo­nop­oly on the World Bank post has never led to ac­tion, in part be­cause crit­ics have never been able to present a united front by ral­ly­ing around a sin­gle can­di­date.

“It’s a pres­ti­gious post,” he said. “The large de­vel­op­ing coun­tries — the Brazils, the Chi­nas, Mex­i­cos, what­ever — have not got­ten to­gether, just like they didn’t in the IMF.”

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