Ajay Banga has been appointed as the next president of The World Bank, as the development lender faces increasing pressure to reshape its role in order to better address climate change. Mr. Banga is due to take over from David Malpass on June 2, for a five-year term, and has been tasked with leading the bank through a difficult period for the world economy, characterized by slowing global growth and high interest rates in many major economies. Mr. Banga will also be required to play a leading role in driving forward the lender’s evolution plans, which aim to allow it a $50bn lending boost over the next decade, helping it to address global challenges like climate change.
The appointment of Mr. Banga is significant not only because he will be leading The World Bank through a challenging period, but also because the appointment comes at a time when there have been growing calls from emerging and developing economies for the US to relinquish its grip on the presidency of the lender. As a US citizen himself, Mr. Banga’s appointment has been met with a mixture of anticipation and skepticism, with many voices in the developing world demanding that the appointment does not dilute the bank’s focus on the pressing economic development needs of developing economies.
One of Mr. Banga’s key priorities, according to a statement from the bank, will be to work with the private sector to help tackle financing for global problems. “There is not enough money without the private sector,” he said, adding that the World Bank should set up a system that could share risk or mobilize private funds to achieve its goals.
In recent years, there has been growing concern about the ability of low-income countries to cope with the double shock of higher borrowing costs and a decline in demand for their exports due to the tough economic conditions prevailing in many developed economies. The IMF’s chief Kristalina Georgieva warned last month that this situation could fuel poverty and hunger, and called for urgent action to address it. It is hoped that Mr. Banga’s experience in bringing together governments, the private sector and non-profits to deliver on ambitious goals will help The World Bank to meet this challenge.
Mr. Banga himself has acknowledged the difficult conditions facing the global economy, but has expressed his confidence that The World Bank will be able to rise to the challenge. “These are all tools in the toolkit and I’m going to try and figure it out,” he said.
One of the most pressing challenges facing The World Bank is the need to address climate change, conflict and the pandemic, which the bank estimates will require developing countries to find $2.4tn every year for the next seven years. Plans to reform the bank have been broadly welcomed, but there is concern that new objectives could relegate the pressing economic development needs of member countries. “We want to make sure that the development agenda is not diluted in the climate agenda,” said Abdoul Salam Bello, a member of The World Bank’s executive board representing 23 African countries.
Despite these concerns, many experts believe that Mr. Banga’s appointment marks a turning point for The World Bank, and that his leadership will be instrumental in helping the lender to take a more decisive approach to the global challenges facing it. The appointment of Mr. Banga is just one step along the way for The World Bank, but it is an important one, and if he can navigate the many challenges facing the lender, he could leave behind a lasting legacy.