Bloomberg News

G-20 Skirts World Bank Leadership Race as Europe Dominates Talks

February 28, 2012

Feb. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Group of 20 officials meeting in Mexico City were too busy debating how best to help Europe contain its debt crisis to find time to tackle another divisive issue: who will be the next president of the World Bank.

French Finance Minister Francois Baroin said in an interview that the topic was never discussed, echoing comments by officials from China and Brazil. Italy’s central banker, Ignazio Visco, said the topic didn’t even surface “in the corridors,” where officials gossip about issues off the agenda.

The campaign over who should lead the anti-poverty lender when current President Robert Zoellick steps down in June was overshadowed at a G-20 meeting by the more pressing concern of whether outside nations should rally to Europe’s side. Going in, Brazil and China had pushed for a selection process that could lead to a president who is not a U.S. citizen.

The World Bank board of directors said it expects to pick Zoellick’s successor before its April 20-22 meetings. The Washington-based lender said it will accept nominations until March 23 and look for candidates with skills including “a proven track record of leadership” and experience managing large organizations with an international reach.

Until now, the job has always been held by an American in keeping with a tradition that also has a European preside over the International Monetary Fund. Leaders in the emerging markets, buoyed by their growing economic heft as growth in the U.S. and Europe flounders, have challenged that thinking.

No BRICS Candidate

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the nomination was discussed in Mexico City at a meeting of the so-called BRICS group -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- though officials failed to come up with a name from their bloc to take on an American rival.

“When we discussed the question with colleagues from BRICS it was suggested that the selection should be based on professionalism and not the country of origin,” he said.

For now, the only thing developing nations seem to agree on is that the 12th presidency of the World Bank shouldn’t be reserved for an American.

“At this point we don’t know what the process will be like,” said Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade. “But we reiterate our commitment, which was agreed upon in the G-20, that the process should be open, transparent, and merit based.”

Time is running short to produce a rival candidate after the Obama administration said it will unveil its choice in the coming weeks.

Nor is emerging market unity even assured. Last year Christine Lagarde, then France’s finance minister, got picked to head the IMF over Mexican Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens after Brazil and other emerging markets failed to close rank behind his candidacy.

Zoellick, 58, announced this month he would step down when his five-year mandate ends June 30. The board will decide on a shortlist of up to three candidates, whom it will then interview.

-- With assistance from Sandrine Rastello, Anastasia Ustinova, Arnaldo Galvao and Ye xie in Mexico City. Editors:

To contact the reporter on this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in Mexico City at fjackson@bloomberg.net Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net


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