World Bank president election process questioned

Monday, April 16, 2012

Johannesburg - As directors of the World Bank are set to meet later today to make a decision on who the body's next president will be, doubt in the transparency of the process has emerged.

Speaking to journalists at Foreign Correspondents' Association breakfast meeting in Johannesburg on Monday Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the organisation has passed the test of openness in the sense that anybody could nominate anybody for the presidency.

"The second test that we will be judged by is how transparent has the process been. From what I'm hearing there's serious concerns about transparency," said Gordhan, also linking it to whether the process had been a merit-based one.

"I think we're going to find that the process falls short of that. The world will be waiting to see whether the World Bank has improved its legitimacy [and] has broadened its base of participation in the terms of the kinds of candidates it will entertain," explained the minister.

The comes as the 25 executive directors will gather in Washington, US to succeed outgoing president Robert Zoellick, whose term ends in June.

When nominations for the presidency opened it was initially a three-horse race with US-nominated Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American global health expert, Jose Antonio Ocampo, a professor at Columbia University who was nominated by Brazil and president of Dartmouth College and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She has been endorsed as a candidate of choice for the African continent.

Ocampo pulled out of the race on Friday.

It is expected that the job will go to a US candidate. Since its establishment in 1944, the presidency of the World Bank has always gone to a US candidate.

Godrhan said it was necessary to look beyond "claims of democratic processes" and whether candidates have been given a fair chance.

South Africa has for years been calling on reforms in such global bodies.

Though there has been progress in reforms, "there's a lot more reforms to come," said Gordhan.

Nominations for candidates ended on 23 March.

The selection happens ahead of the World Bank's Spring Meetings.