US pick to lead World Bank, Ajay Banga, wins more support

FILE PHOTO: MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga looks on during the White House summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection in Palo Alto, California February 13, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS)/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Three Nobel laureates and dozens of civil society, climate change and philanthropic leaders on Thursday endorsed U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the World Bank, ex-Mastercard Chief Executive Ajay Banga.

Joseph Stiglitz, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, were among the 53 people who signed a declaration backing Banga.

“Ajay Banga possesses a rare combination of leadership; track record of building successful alliances across the public, private, and social sectors; and experience working in developing countries,” they wrote. “He’s the right person to lead the World Bank at this critical moment.”

The declaration reflects growing momentum for the candidacy of Banga, an Indian-born U.S. citizen who has won support from India, Kenya, Ghana and Bangladesh, and received positive reviews from France and Germany at last month’s meeting of Group of 20 finance officials.

Biden last month nominated Banga, 63, to replace David Malpass, who announced his resignation after months of controversy over his initial failure to say he backed the scientific consensus on climate change.

The signatories highlighted Banga’s work on an agriculture program in Latin America aimed at strengthening the resilience of farmers to climate disasters, and a crop insurance program he shaped with the World Food Bank and private partners.

“He understands that the World Bank must serve as a force multiplier by setting the right agenda and then catalyzing action across governments, the private sector, multilateral development banks, civil society, and philanthropies,” they said.

No other contenders have been publicly announced, although Russia says it is consulting with its allies about nominating their own candidate, in a move that could slow progress toward the bank’s goal of electing a new president by early May.

The World Bank has been headed by someone from the United States, the lender’s dominant shareholder, since its founding at the end of World War Two.

A challenge from Russia or an allied country is unlikely to change the outcome, given the bank’s shareholding structure. It could expose simmering tensions between the U.S. and Western nations and China – the bank’s third largest shareholder – over the bank and other global financial institutions.


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