World Bank head deflects criticism

World Bank head deflects criticism

NEW DELHI - Agence France-Presse
World Bank head deflects criticism

Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee (L) greets World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick ahead of their meeting in New Delhi, India on March 30. AP photo

Outgoing World Bank chief Robert Zoellick said Friday that emerging market nations were well represented among the bank’s staff as he sought to deflect criticism of the U.S. lock on the presidency.

A nearly seven-decade-long carve-up has seen Americans lead the World Bank and Europeans head the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but this year the custom is facing an unprecedented challenge from two developing nation candidates.

“The top leader is an important role but not by any means the sole role,” Zoellick, a former U.S. diplomat, told a news conference in New Delhi. “It is important to look throughout the organization,” said Zoellick who was in the Indian capital after visiting a World Bank project in the eastern state of Orissa.

During his five-year stint as World Bank president, Zoellick said he had recruited many senior staff from developing nations, citing as an example his appointment of the first World Bank chief economist from China.

Zoellick, who steps down in June, also stressed that the United States did not dominate all multilateral institutions.

“An American has never headed the IMF, there has never been an American UN Secretary General,” he said. “If you want to keep the U.S. engaged in multilateral organizations, you have to keep openings somewhere - but that may or may not be at the Bank.”

Zoellick’s comments came after a summit of the world’s emerging powers on Thursday in New Delhi emphasized the need for an “open and merit-based” selection process in choosing the leaders of the World Bank and the IMF.

The leaders of the BRICS bloc - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - said they “welcome the candidatures from the developing world” for the new head of the World Bank but they did choose a common candidate.

The U.S. choice Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American physician, is facing a challenge for the job from Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former Colombian finance minister.