When I wrote that the United States should throw its weight behind a non-American candidate for the World Bank presidency, people naturally asked who I thought that should be. I felt like it was simply too soon to say, but now Reuters reports that two strong contenders are emerging from the developing world. The first is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a well-regarded economist and former Managing Director at the World Bank who agreed to return to her native Nigeria to serve as Finance Minister in Jonathan Goodluck’s cabinet. She’s the woman of the kind of stature where the question was whether or not she would accept the job, and getting heron board was seen as important to trying to make Goodluck’s reform agenda credible. The other is José Antonio Ocampo, a former Agriculture Minister and Finance Minister in Colombia who went on to as UN Undersecretary for Ecoomic and Social Affairs.
Both of these candidates have what you’re looking for in a World Bank President, namely economic credential paired with political and diplomatic experience in the weird world of international institutions. I don’t have any strong feelings about which would be preferable and there are probably a few other folks out there with comparable qualifications, but the point is that it would be a wise and farsighted move for the American government to find someone like this who we like and get behind him or her. As the Bank’s largest shareholder, the U.S. will always have lots of sway over what actually goes on there. Insisting that the top officer must always be an American is petty, and the best way to ensure that the American nominee always gets the job is for us to pick a nominee of high merit who has substantial support in the developing world.