Bloomberg News

Ocampo Sees World Bank Bid as U.S. Challenge

March 29, 2012

Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former Colombian finance minister and one of three candidates to become the next World Bank president, said challenging the U.S. monopoly on the job will force changes to future selections.

A 59-year-old professor at Columbia University in New York who also served as under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs at the United Nations, Ocampo said he is talking with countries including Brazil to obtain support for his bid. He and Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are seeking to end a tradition that has a U.S. citizen head the bank.

“Maybe it will not change this time,” Ocampo said in a phone interview yesterday. “We’re putting up the fight so that the system will be changed forever. We are planting the seeds for change.”

Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. candidate, on March 27 embarked on a tour to garner support from China to Ethiopia. In an op-ed piece in today’s edition of the Financial Times, he pledged to continue giving these countries, which have been driving global growth, more voting power at the bank if he is elected.

The new president will take over an institution that lent $57 billion last year, as private investors step up their funding for development projects, turning the World Bank into more of a technical adviser. The 25-director board will pick a candidate by April 20 to replace Robert Zoellick, whose term ends June 30.

Colombian Indifference

Colombia is not campaigning for Ocampo. Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry told reporters last week that the country is already well represented in Washington by Luis Alberto Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development bank.

The government’s lobby efforts are focused on getting Vice President Angelino Garzon elected as the next director-general of the International Labour Organization, Echeverry said.

Ocampo said Colombia set priorities and that “it’s not against my candidacy.” He said his interview with the World Bank board would take place April 10.

Brazil put forth Ocampo’s nomination March 23 at the request of the Dominican Republic, whom it represents on the multilateral lender’s executive board, a Brazilian government official said last week, adding the country had not decided whom to support.

“The nomination of Jose Antonio Ocampo is full with substantial symbolism and is representative of the undeniable fact that in the 21st century the world must recognize and listen to the voice of developing countries,” Alicia Barcena, the executive secretary of the UN’s Santiago, Chile-based Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, wrote in an op-ed published in Poder360.

Ocampo said his career, which includes other posts in the Colombian government and at the UN, as well as experience in both policy and academic work make him the strongest candidate.

“I have migrated across sectors probably far more than any of the other candidates,” he said.

The major priorities for the bank are “the fight against poverty and the contribution that the bank can make to global issues” such as climate change, he said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sandrine Rastello in Washington at srastello@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net.


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