BRICS challenge US World Bank domination, demand merit

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Mexico's President Felipe Calderon (C) gives a speech during the Group of Twenty (G20) leading economies' finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Mexico City. Photo - Ariel Gutierrez/Reuters/Presidential Palace/Handout

Finance chiefs from the BRICS group of emerging market powerhouses -Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – met on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Mexico City this weekend and rejected the traditional method of an American leading the World Bank. Top officials from the world’s major emerging economies announced they will look at putting forward their own candidate for the open job.

“Candidates should be based on merit and not on nationality,” Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega told reporters on the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

“Certainly it is a discussion we will have,” said another BRICS official while adding that the group will discuss the possibility of putting up their own candidate to challenge whoever the US government nominates.

Around 187 members of the World Bank will have until March 23 to submit names for the top post. A decision is likely to be taken by April when meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund are held.

Americans have held the top job since the World Bank was set up at the end of the Second World War. The ‘gentleman’s rule’ that allows US to retain the World Bank presidency and Europe to keep control of the International Monetary Fund has come under intense criticism during recent years as emerging economies gain economic strength.

“It is time we break the traditions of the US and Europe sharing the two seats and amongst all of us we must try harder this time to find some consensus,” said Pravin Gordhan, South Africa’s finance minister.


Robert Zoellick, the current World Bank president, has announced he intends to step down at the end of June despite Washington’s recommendation for a second five-year term.

The United States says it will nominate a replacement candidate but is yet to put forward a candidate.

Names of several possible candidates have been circulating in the media including that of former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations. The State Department has denied Clinton is interested in taking the job.

The World Bank’s president enjoys top powers including deciding on development aid to poorer countries and bankrolling bailouts to troubled economies.

“They can put forward their candidate,” Gordhan said, referring to the United States. “But rather than it becoming a destructive exercise, it should be a constructive process so that we attempt to build consensus on who the candidate should be. It is idealistic but let’s give it a shot.”

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