Article: American centrism on the World Bank presidency


American centrism on the World Bank presidency

The selection of the World Bank President is typically dominated by the United States, which has the largest voting share among member countries. However, other member countries can influence the selection process by nominating their candidates.
American centrism on the World Bank presidency

Former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga has become the 14th President of the World Bank.

Despite 189 member countries, staff from more than 170 countries, and offices in over 130 locations, the World Bank is yet to adopt diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the leadership position. Only less than 10% of those who were elected as head of the World Bank are from outside America. Does it show American centrism in the global organisation?

Founded in July 1944 in New Hampshire, United States, the institution's top job has always gone to a US candidate and Banga is also no exception to this. Out of a total of 14 including Banga, the World Bank has its presidents mostly from America. Additionally, the anti-poverty lender has never had a female chief.

With the largest voting share among member countries, the United States has dominated the selection of the World Bank President. However, other member countries can still nominate candidates and influence the selection process.

Despite the Bank's rule that allows member nations to make nominations, no countries besides the US announced candidates in 2019 and 2023. Banga is not the first to be elected unopposed as head of the World Bank. Earlier in 2019 David Malpass, a US national and then Under Secretary for International Affairs, US Department of the Treasury was also elected unopposed to the post. He was nominated by the then US President Donald Trump.

No competition in 2019 and 2023

Based on the data, the World Bank itself, there was just one nomination received for 2019 and 2023, respectively. Why there is a lack of candidates for the top post of the global financial institution? Are they not given sufficient time to spread the information to get applications from diverse countries?

The nomination windows in 2019 and 2023 were opened on January 10 and February 22 respectively and closed on March 14 and March 29, respectively.

In 2023, the application window was opened for more than a month. Sometimes small companies take close to three months to get their CEO.

Allegation of west-centric resilience

There was hue and cry when American candidate, Jim Yong Kim was elected to the post. It was alleged Jim Yong Kim was favoured over other candidates who had better exposure to finance. Jim Yong Kim has his training in medicine and PhD in anthropology. Prior to being named World Bank Group President, Kim's career revolved around health, education, and improving the lives of the poor.

Eligibility criteria to become World Bank president

  • Candidate must have a proven track record of leadership;
  • Experience of managing large organisations with international exposure, and a familiarity with the public sector;
  • The ability to articulate a clear vision of the World Bank Group’s development mission;
  • A firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and,
  • An effective and diplomatic communication skills, impartiality and objectivity in the performance of the responsibilities of the position.


Nomination and selection process for the World Bank president

Candidate nominations must be made by Executive Directors, or by Governors through their Executive Director. Candidates must be nationals of the Bank’s member countries.

Following the close of the nomination period, the Executive Directors decide on a shortlist of up to three candidates and publish their names with their consent. Formal interviews of all shortlisted candidates are conducted by Executive Directors to select the new President.

 Here is the list of World Bank presidents and their tenure

  • Eugene Meyer:  He was the first to become President of the World Bank President on June 18, 1946. In this role, he served the bank till December 18, 1946. His tenure as president was the shortest.
  • John J. McCloy: He is the second after Eugene Meyer to serve World Bank as president. He served the global organisation from March 17, 1947, to June 30, 1949.
  • Eugene R. Black: Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Eugene is the third President of the World Bank Group who served the organisation from July 1, 1949 - December 31, 1962.
  • George Woods: He became the fourth to head the World Bank from January 1, 1963 - March 31, 1968. Woods was born in Boston.
  • Robert S. McNamara: Born in Oakland, California in 1916, Robert S. McNamara is credited to shape the Bank as no one before him. He served the Bank as president from April 1, 1968, to June 30, 1981.
  • A. W. Clausen: He was the sixth president of the World Bank and held the position from July 1, 1981 - June 30, 1986. Like his predecessor, Clausen was also an American and he was born in Hamilton, Illinois.
  • Barber Conable: A native of New York, Barber Conable was the seventh president of the World Bank. He led the global organisation from July 1, 1986 to August 31, 1991.
  • Lewis T. Preston: Born in New York, he became the eights President of the World Bank Group on September 1, 1991. He held the position till May 4, 1995.
  • James D. Wolfensohn: He became the first non-American person to head the World Bank. As ninth president of the World Bank, he assumed the role on June 1, 1995 and stayed in the role for ten years till March 31, 2005.
  • Paul D. Wolfowitz: In recent times, Paul was probably the one who held the role for the shortest duration. As tenth president, he served from June 1, 2005, to June 30, 2007. He was born in Brooklyn, New York.
  • Robert B. Zoellick: 11th President of the World Bank Group, July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2012, born in Naperville, Illinois
  • Jim Yong Kim: He is another American who took the role of president of the World Bank. Kim, the twelfth president of the World Bank took charge of the group on July 1, 2012, and served in the role till February 1, 2019.
  • David R. Malpass: He was selected as the 13th President of the World Bank Group by its Board of Executive Directors on April 5, 2019. 
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Topics: Appointments, Leadership

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