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BBC World Service

Race to find new World Bank leader could take power from U.S.

Andrew Walker Mar 21, 2012

Stacey Vanek Smith: Ever since it was created, near the end of World War II, the head of the World Bank has always been an American. With Robert Zoellick stepping down from the top job, the race is on to find a replacement. Two candidates from developing countries may be challenging U.S. dominance.

The BBC’s economics correspondent Andrew Walker joins us from London to explain more. Good morning Andrew.

Andrew Walker: Good morning.

Smith: So who are these two candidates and why are they being pushed to head the World Bank?

Walker: Well first of all, there’s Jose Antonio Ocampo, a Colombian; former finance minister. He is being nominated from Latin America. The other candidate is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She is the Nigerian finance minister, and she has experience at the World Bank herself. They’re being pushed I think because there’s a general view in developing countries that this post-war stitch-up is unfair, and they really feel that they  ought to be better represented in the way the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are run.

So, it looks now quite likely to put up some candidates; no confirmation of that yet. But I have to say I think at the end of the day, we’ll probably end up with another American.

Smith: How would that change things — to have someone from a developing country, like Colombia or Nigeria, in that job?

Walker: Well, I must say I do wonder whether in terms of concrete decisions taken by the Bank it really would make a great deal of difference. But I think it would matter symbolically enormously to the developing world, just giving them a greater sense that they were an increasingly important part of the international economic system, and that they weren’t just being, as it were, spoken down to or even patronized by the developed world.

Smith: The BBC’s economics correspondent Andrew Walker from London. Andrew, thank you.

Walker: It’s my pleasure.

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