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Will Next World Bank President Be An American?

Who should take over as World Bank president is being debated by government officials, economists and development experts. Some say it is time to end the custom of always picking an American to lead the global lender intended to help developing nations. Some people are literally betting on continued U.S. dominance of the World Bank.

Wagers for World Bank president

This online betting web site in Ireland, called “Paddy Power” is taking wagers and setting odds on who will become World Bank president.

Early in the process, the betting favors Harvard economist and former presidential adviser Larry Summers. Here, he defends the Obama's administration's policies toward big banks. “You have to think about the consequences of breaking contracts for the overall system of law,” he said.

U.S. officials say they will put forward “a strong candidate.”

Of other possibilities, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated she does not want the job.

Lower odds are on Kemal Dervis, a former Turkish finance minister who also headed development efforts at the United Nations and was a key World Bank official involved in the developing world. “I am very optimistic about Africa’s future," he stated. "Every year I am more optimistic.”

Another veteran of the World Bank is Nigeria Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, her nation’s former foreign minister. “If we do not act, more than 100-million people will be thrown back into poverty,” he said.

Successful prediction

Odds makers at the “Paddy Power” betting web site correctly predicted Christine Lagarde of France would be named to head the International Monetary Fund and continue a decades-long habit of placing a European at the top of the IMF.

Former World Bank official Uri Dadush is an economist at the Carnegie Endowment and says fast-growing developing nations should have more of a voice. “It is time that the president of the World Bank be selected solely on the basis of their ability to do this very important job,” he stated.

Bank of Mexico Governor Agustin Carstens had campaigned hard, but lost in the race for IMF chief.

International trade and economics expert Claude Barfield of the American Enterprise Institute says that is because developing nations failed to unite behind one candidate. “There was divided opinion among developing countries ... for whatever reason, the Chinese really did not get behind him," he noted. "It is hard to know if they would do that today or not.”

Nominations open until mid-March

In the campaign to replace World Bank President Robert Zoellick, of the United States.... bank officials are taking nominations until March 23. The job description calls for a person with leadership and diplomatic skills, experience managing a large organization and an appreciation for multilateral cooperation.