World Bank Candidate Ngozi Says Will Focus on Job Creation
Managing Digital Editor, CNBC International
Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of three candidates for the top job at the World Bank, says creating jobs is the most important challenge facing the organization's member countries, and that requires investments in a number of sectors such as infrastructure and agriculture.
"No one size fits all. For many countries, it would be important to prioritize investments in infrastructure, agriculture, health, education and other sectors that can unleash jobs," she wrote in an op-ed piece in the Financial Times, in which she laid out her case to become the next president of the World Bank.
Richard Duncan - the author of the book, The New Depression: The Breakdown of the Paper Money Economy, who previously worked under Okonjo-Iweala at the World Bank where she was Managing Director, told CNBC she was the best person to lead the organization.
"I think the reason there is so much passion and excitement about Ngozi is because she is so extraordinarily competent," Duncan said Tuesday. "It's hard to put your finger on it - but she clearly knows how to get the right things done."
Okonjo-Iweala wrote in the FT that her approach to development had been influenced by growing up in poverty first-hand and living through the Nigerian civil war.
"I grew up in a village in Nigeria where I knew poverty first-hand. I lived through the Nigerian civil war in my formative years, where I observed how violence could set back years of economic development."
Okonjo-Iweala, who's currently Nigeria's finance minister, said the other priorities for the World Bank should be investing in human capital in poor countries and helping them build their institutions.
"In the wake of the great recession, the uncertain times in which we live call for decisive action," Okonjo-Iweala wrote. "The World Bank must respond quickly and effectively to three key challenges facing its client countries in ways that respect their priorities, their culture and their own processes."
Ho Seng Chee, who worked 11 years at the IMF in Washington DC and is now a council member of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, says Okonjo-Iweala is astute in not mentioning the bank's financing role and focusing more on its role as an advisor to developing world governments.
"With the development of global capital markets, the bank's role in financing is decreasing and will continue to decrease," he said.
Contest Heats Up
The contest for the president of the World Bank has become especially heated in recent weeks with two developing world candidates seeking to challenge the front-runner and U.S. nominee, Jim Yong Kim. Jose Antonia Ocampo, a former Colombian finance minister, and the other candidate from the developing world, has also been publicly campaigning for the post. Last week, he won the endorsement of a number of influential economist.
Meanwhile, Okonjo-Iweala has won the support of 39 former World Bank officials who cited her deep experience in international and national issues of economic management.
Despite the public campaign by Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, many including Seng Chee feel the appointment of Jim Yong Kim is a foregone conclusion, given the majority votes controlled by the U.S. and Europe. All three candidates are being interviewed by the board of the World Bank this week and a decision will be made on April 16th.
But those lobbying for Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala are still hopeful of a last-minute change of mind by President Obama.
"I don't think it's ever a mistake to change a policy, if it's not the right policy - it's always good to do the right thing whether or not you had proposed something different," Duncan said. "President Obama is the kind of man who can say that and have that accepted by all reasonable people."