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Reinventing the World Bank, Again

MADRID – With three nominees now in the running to become the World Bank’s next president – Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Colombian Finance Minister José Antonio Ocampo, and the United States’ nominee, Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim – this is the moment to step back and assess the Bank’s trajectory. Unless the Bank’s next president has a clear vision of the way ahead, and the gravitas to withstand the institution’s internal pressures, he or she will be swallowed up by its complex machinery and unwieldy processes.

Global attention has been focused on weighing the three candidates’ strengths and qualifications, particularly their economic and financial credentials. But the real challenge lies in providing direction for the World Bank that reflects the world as it is, and re-calibrating the Bank’s tools accordingly. Inevitably, the new course hinges in part on recognizing that economics and finance, while integral elements of all areas of the Bank’s activities, are no longer the institution’s main drivers.