First Ever Challenger for World Bank President Pleas for Level Playing Field, Global Shift

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria in this March 23, 2012 (Photo: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

First Ever Challenger for World Bank President Pleas for Level Playing Field, Global Shift

Okonjo-Iweala : 'My biggest hope is that this will be a fair contest'

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been nominated to run for World Bank President by African leaders from Nigeria, South Africa and Angola. The nomination comes as an unprecedented challenge to the US nomination -- this year's Jim Yong Kim.

The World Bank president has traditionally been selected by Washington, according to an 'informal agreement' between Western powers. Okonjo-Iweala's nomination comes as an unconventional challenge to the process. "Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, painted the convention as a vestige of a bygone era," Reuters reports.

Okonjo-Iweala has used the platform as a plea for a fair process whereby 'emerging economies' may have a stronger voice in the global institution. "We're not asking the U.S. not to compete, we're just asking for a level playing field where candidates can be evaluated on their merits," stated Okonjo-Iweala.

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Okonjo-Iweala: World Bank Must Mirror Global Shift (Reuters):

Emerging economies must be given a fair shot at leading the institutions at the heart of global finance or they will end up going their own way, a challenger for the top job at the World Bank said.

"The balance of power in the world has shifted and emerging market countries are contributing more and more to global growth - more than 50 percent - and they need to be given a voice in running things," Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters. "If you don't, they will lose interest. [...]

Okonjo-Iweala, 57, was nominated on Friday by African power houses Nigeria, South Africa and Angola to lead the poverty-fighting institution when its current president Robert Zoellick steps down in June.

She is going up against Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert whose name was put forward by U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, who was nominated by Brazil.

It's the first time the post has ever been contested.

Okonjo-Iweala admitted that if the United States, the nation with the largest World Bank voting bloc, and Europe held together, her candidacy would be doomed. But she expressed hope the World Bank's 187 member nations would hold true to their pledge for an open, merit-based process.

"We are not just going into this saying to ourselves we are already defeated," she said, speaking by telephone from Abuja. "We are hoping that the Bretton Woods institutions and their shareholders will keep their word."

"My biggest hope is that this will be a fair contest."

Okonjo-Iweala, who was named by Forbes magazine last year as one of the world's 100 most powerful women, said African leaders would be discussing her nomination with other developing and emerging economies including China, the World Bank's third-largest shareholder.

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