Bloomberg News

World Bank Candidate Ocampo Wants to Change Culture at Lender

April 10, 2012

Jose Antonio Ocampo, a former Colombian finance minister and one of three candidates to become the next World Bank president, said he would push for a change in the staff culture and increase cooperation with regional and national counterparts.

“The world of multilateral development banks is a dense system” and the World Bank needs to “work with that system, to be the leader in a sense,” said Ocampo, who spoke in Washington after an interview with the World Bank board of directors. Work with other lenders “has not been particularly very strong.”

Ocampo and Nigeria’s Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala are seeking to end a tradition that has a U.S. citizen head the bank. The U.S. nominee, Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, has received an endorsement from countries including Canada and Japan. The U.S. is the bank’s largest shareholder.

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 wants to use the bank “more as a forum for dialogue between industrial economies and emerging economies.”

The lender also needs more capital, he said. Under current President Robert Zoellick, shareholders approved a capital increase providing the institution with $5.1 billion in cash and enhancing China’s clout at the lender.

Capital Increase

“When the time came for a capital increase, the current president was too shy in asking,’ Ocampo said after the more than three-hour interview with the bank’s board. ‘‘That is a reason why now the bank is decreasing its lending significantly, because it cannot have a larger portfolio.”

The new president, whose term is expected to start on July 1, will take over an institution that has become more of a technical adviser as the amount private investors pump into developing economies dwarf the $57 billion in loans the bank made last fiscal year.

Ocampo said that while working for the UN he found it easier to work with the International Monetary Fund than with the World Bank because “the IMF has a clear sense of its mandate.”

If selected, Ocampo said he would try to change a culture where work in the field is not valued as much as working from the bank’s Washington headquarters.

He spoke at an event organized by the Center for Global Development and the Washington Post, which hosted a similar forum with Okonjo-Iweala yesterday. Kim was invited to have his own and won’t attend, according to the organizers.

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

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


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