President Joe Biden has nominated a former boss of Mastercard with decades of experience on Wall Street to lead the World Bank and oversee a shake-up at the development organization to shift its focus to the climate crisis.
Ajay Banga, an American citizen born in India, comes a week after David Malpass, a Donald Trump appointee, quit the role. The World Bank’s governing body is expected to make a decision in May, but the US is the Washington-based organisation’s largest shareholder and has traditionally been allowed to nominate without challenge its preferred candidate for the post.
Malpass, who is due to step down on 30 June, was nominated by Trump in February 2019 and took up the post officially that April. He is known to have lost the confidence of Biden’s head of the US Treasury, Janet Yellen, who with other shareholders wanted to expand the bank’s development remit to include the climate crisis and other global challenges.
Ajay Banga, former president and CEO of Mastercard and current vice chairman of the private equity firm General Atlantic, is Biden’s nomination as the next president of the World Bank.
Biden, in a statement Thursday, called Banga – a native of India and former chairman of the International Chamber of commerce – “uniquely equipped” to lead the World Bank, a global development institution that provides grants and loans to low-income countries to reduce poverty and spur development.
Biden touted Banga’s work leading global companies that brought investment to developing economies and his record of enlisting the public and private sectors to “tackle the most urgent challenges of our time, including climate change.”
The Biden administration is looking to recalibrate the focus of the World Bank to align with global efforts to reduce climate change.
Malpass, nominated by former President Donald Trump, still had a year remaining on his five-year term as president. Malpass came under fire when he said, “I’m not a scientist,” when asked at a New York Times event in September whether he accepts the overwhelming scientific evidence that the burning of fossil fuels has caused global temperatures to rise. Former Vice President Al Gore, who called Malpass a “climate denier,” was among several well-known climate activists to call for his resignation.
Banga was the top executive at Mastercard from 2010 to 2020. He has served as a co-chair of Vice President Kamala Harris’ Partnership for Central America, which has sought to bring private investment to the region.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen applauded Biden’s pick. She said Banga understands the World Bank’s goals to eliminate poverty and expand prosperity are “deeply intertwined with challenges like meeting ambitious goals for climate adaptation and emissions reduction, preparing for and preventing future pandemics, and mitigating the root causes and consequences of conflict and fragility.”
Banga still needs confirmation by the bank’s board to become president. It’s unclear whether there will be additional nominees from other nations.