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Colombian Competes for World Bank Presidency

Three people are vying to become the next president of the World Bank - the first time in history there has been open competition for the post. The bank works to ease global poverty by spurring economic development and has always been headed by an American. The candidates have job interviews beginning April 10 in Washington.

International experience

Jose Antonio Ocampo won praise as the head of Colombia’s Ministries of Finance, and Agriculture and as chief of its central bank, for boosting economic growth and investment.

Ocampo says he is the only candidate who has headed national, regional, and global organizations.

Now a professor at Columbia University, he previously researched and taught development economics at Britain's Cambridge University and other schools.

Ocampo also served in high-level posts at the United Nations, including undersecretary- general for economic and social affairs, making him well-known to experts in the field like Uri Dadush of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"[Ocampo is] one of the recognized development experts in the world today. Huge experience," said Dadush. "Whether he has the management skill, the kind of determination that you need to run a large organization like that is a question in my mind."

Ocampo worked on a book with Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development.

"He is a very esteemed academic, has written a lot, has done a lot of good work," Birdsall said. "I’d say he is stronger on some of those macro [economic] issues than some of the microeconomic issues and sectoral issues where the World Bank tends to be involved, education, health, infrastructure, and so on.”

Focus on poverty reduction

Ocampo thinks the World Bank should do more to help small-scale agriculture as part of its mission to reduce poverty. He says the bank should put more emphasis on middle-income nations that are home to so many of the world’s poor and make more efforts to improve gender equality.

He says the effects of global warming are already visible and should be high on the bank’s agenda along with food prices and problems with the financial sector.

Ocampo believes one step in coping with global warming is helping emerging nations find and manage the energy they need to grow while minimizing the impact on the environment.

He admits these tasks will require more money. He says major emerging nations are the most likely source of funds and would be more likely to increase their support if they got a greater say in the bank’s activities, including the selection of its president.

Ocampo is in a three-way race with U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert, and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

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