Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala Wants Faster, Job-Focused World Bank–Bloomberg

By Sandrine Rastello – Apr 9, 2012 9:38 PM

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of three candidates to head the World Bank, said she would focus on helping foster job creation and make the lender faster to react to clients’ requests.

Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke after being interviewed by the World Bank board of directors, stressed her exposure to war and poverty when growing up as well as her professional experience in government and at the bank itself, where she worked in various positions including managing director.

“I’ve worked during my time at the World Bank in almost every region of this world,” she said during a forum discussion in Washington today. She said her vision “builds on the need to be responsive, to be nimble, to be creative, to be able to deliver.”

Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are challenging a U.S. monopoly on the job, the bank’s largest shareholder. The U.S. nominee, Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, has received an endorsement from countries including Canada and Japan.

A group of former World Bank officials, including one-time chief economist Francois Bourguignon, last week said it supports Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy to become the lender’s president. The 39 former managers, in a letter sent to the bank’s members, cited Okonjo-Iweala’s “deep experience in international and national issues of economic management.”

The new president will take over an institution that lent $57 billion last year, dwarfed by the amount private investors pumped into funding development projects, turning the World Bank into more of a technical adviser.

Social, Gender Issues

Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at an event organized by the Center for Global Development and the Washington Post Live, said she wants the bank to deal with social and gender issues. She said she would push for the bank to play a larger role in helping countries mitigate climate change.

The lender may need more capital, she said, while recognizing that member countries may not be in a position to contribute soon.

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