New York Times puts Okonjo-Iweala ahead of Obama's choice

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala

Advancing merit over politics, and given the current global economic and social challenges, Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, is the best fit for the presidency of the World Bank, the New York Times, said yesterday, even as the influential newspaper praised President Obama’s nominee for the same job, Jim Yong Kim, as an “inspired choice.”

More importantly also, argues the paper, the tradition that allows all the presidents of the World Bank to be American, just as the headship of the International Monetary Fund traditionally goes to a European is antiquated and needs be replaced by a merit-centred consideration.

At the current time however, what the bank needs, says the New York Times is “a president with experience beyond Washington’s narrow political and economic circles” positing that although: “Dr. Kim has worked on development in the poorest countries. One major success: leading a World Health Organization initiative that provided access to H.I.V. treatment to millions of people. The new president must also tackle broader issues of economics and growth, and manage the prickly political leaders who are the bank’s overseers. That is why the bank board must take a serious look at Dr. Kim’s strongest challenger, Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister.”

Nevertheless, a merit-based consideration should not exclude qualified Americans, the paper said, but even as much, “neither should it guarantee them a job” in a world where emerging economies contribute a significant share to global growth, and are “rightly demanding a greater say in decision-making,” the paper argues.

Yong Kim is a South Korean-born medical doctor and president of Ivy League Dartmouth College of whom the paper admits,“ has a stellar reputation as a global health expert.” 

Whereas Ms. Okonjo-Iweala has already attracted strong endorsements from publications at the cutting edge of global financial journalism like The Economist, and the Financial Times, this new endorsement by the respected and perhaps biggest leading newspaper of the western world cannot be missed or ignored by the bank’s board that will consider it as huge and certainly critical in the final tally of who gets the top bank job.

The New York Times is unequivocal in its support saying as an “economist, diplomat and former World Bank managing director, she offers many conventional qualities of bank presidents” adding, “she breaks the mold as a woman from an African country where she fought to reduce the country’s debt, gain greater access to international credit markets and battle corruption.” 

Of the third candidate, José Antonio Ocampo, a Professor at Columbia University in New York, and who is the former Colombian finance minister and high-ranking United Nations official, the paper said “He, too, is a credible contender with long experience in development and international policy” although with regards to Dr. Kim, the paper said “The bank will almost certainly do well under his leadership. But it would do even better if the process for choosing the next president were truly competitive and fully transparent.”




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