The unofficial talking head of global capitalism, and perhaps the world’s most influential business newspaper, The Economist, has offered a five-star endorsement of Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as president of the World Bank, seriously questioning the suitability her closest rival, Jim Yong Kim, the American public-health professor whom Barack Obama wants to impose on the bank, as America’s nominee.
In the lead editorial for its March 31 issue, The Economist says a World Bank chief needs: “experience in government, in economics and in finance… He or she should have a broad record in development, too. Ms Okonjo-Iweala has all these attributes… Jim Yong Kim, the American public-health professor whom Barack Obama wants to impose on the bank, has at most one.”
This endorsement comes barely 48 hours after another global leader in financial journalism, The Financial Times, also called on global support for Ms. Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy.
The Economist, in its editorial, also slammed the tradition of imposing leaders on the world’s two leading financial regulatory institutions between Europe and the United States calling the practice an “indefensible carve-up.” Since the founding of the Bretton Woods institutions, the United States has chosen the head of the World Bank and Europe the head of the International Monetary Fund.
“This shabby tradition has persisted,” says The Economist, “because it has not been worth picking a fight over, adding, “The gap between Mr. Kim and Ms. Okonjo-Iweala changes the calculation. It gives others a chance to insist on the best candidate, not simply the American one.”
The paper admitted that though “Ms Okonjo-Iweala is an orthodox economist, which many will hold against her. But if there is one thing the world has discovered about poverty reduction in the past 15 years, it is that development is not something rich countries do to poor ones. It is something poor countries manage for themselves, mainly by the sort of policies that Ms Okonjo-Iweala has pursued with some success in Nigeria.”
Calling on the third candidate, former Colombian finance minister José Antonio Ocampo, to “bow out gracefully,” the paper claims that though he has more qualifications than Kim but they are fewer than those of Ms. Okonjo-Iweala.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala has earned rave reviews as managing director of the World Bank in 2007-11, and on account of her formidable resume as a public economist.
The article ends by declaring: “May the best woman win.”