(Reuters) – The U.S. nominee to lead the World Bank, ex-MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, gained traction with leading members on Friday, a sign that he will likely have a smooth ride to confirmation by the bank’s executive board.
The finance ministers of France and Germany gave positive reviews to Banga, nominated on Thursday by U.S. President Joe Biden as a surprise choice to lead the institution’s transformation to fight climate change and other global challenges.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said on the sidelines of a G20 finance leaders in India that Banga‘s nomination was a “very remarkable” proposal because his private sector experience would be potentially helpful in mobilizing private investment in the fight against climate change and for development projects.
Lindner said that Germany would follow the nomination with “great attention” and expressed “sympathy” for the proposal.
The comments mark a turnabout from Tuesday, when German international development minister Svenja Schulze said the next World Bank chief should be a woman.
“I think he is a good candidate. I need to meet him to know a little bit more about him,” French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Reuters.
Asked whether Europe would try to nominate its own choice, Le Maire said: “You know, we have this (U.S.) candidate, so I think it’s wise to meet him, get to know more about him.”
The G20 ministers meeting is being held on the outskirts of the Indian tech hub city of Bengaluru.
India’s finance ministry has not commented on the nomination of Banga, an Indian-born U.S. citizen, which played prominently in Indian media on Friday.
But the government was expected to support Banga, India’s new executive director at the International Monetary Fund, told Reuters in Washington.
Krishnamurthy Subramanian, the former top economic adviser to the Indian government, called the nomination “an elegant solution”.
ENSURING U.S. LEADER
The United States, the lender’s dominant shareholder, has chosen every World Bank president since the instititution’s founding at the end of World War Two.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she did not know whether there would be other nominees for the job, but said Washington moved quickly with a well qualified candidate to ensure that tradition would continue.
“… we’ve tried to find a nominee who was really well qualified and brings a unique set of skills to the job that we think will be attractive,” she said.
Other countries have until March 29 to nominate an alternative candidate and the World Bank board intends to announce a choice by early May.
But with the United States and European countries supporting Banga, along with some key emerging markets, a challenger would have almost no chance of succeeding and would be a largely symbolic effort to protest what is seen by many countries and stakeholders as a non-transparent selection process stacked for too long in Washington’s favour.
Yellen told reporters that Banga has “the right leadership and management skills, experience in emerging markets, and financial expertise” to lead the bank and reform it to boost lending on climate change, while maintaining its core anti-poverty mission.