A former Colombian Finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, has withdrawn his candidacy from the race for the World Bank presidency to support Nigeria’s Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Mr Ocampo, who was nominated by Brazil to represent a constituency of Latin American countries on the World Bank board, reportedly agreed to withdraw from the race following an agreement among emerging and developing countries to come together to support a nominee.
“For me as an economist and as a Colombian, it has been a great honour to participate in this first open competition for the presidency of the World Bank,” Mr. Ocampo said in his withdrawal letter.
“I am pleased with the great success they have had from the Directors, evaluating my candidacy as one of the most strong, and the international public opinion, the ideas I have proposed throughout the debate, and now I hope to contribute to reform the World Bank in the coming years.
“However, as we approach the final phase of this process, it is clear that this is becoming no longer a competition on the merits of the candidates, but a political exercise. In this exercise I am at a disadvantage by the lack of support from the government of my country and how this has hindered the accumulation of political backing for my candidacy.
“Although this choice does not comply in a full feature an open, transparent and based on the merit of candidates, it has established the precedent that the election of President of the World Bank has to be different.
“In that spirit, for the reasons given above, and to facilitate the desired unity of the emerging and developing economies around a candidate, today I am retiring from the race to support the Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who I wish the best of luck in this final stage.”
Okonjo-Iweala would remain as the sole candidate from developing nations in a race against U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert who is seen as the favourite to win the race.
A straw poll among World Bank directors representing the Group of 11, which includes emerging countries and Australia, backed Okonjo-Iweala, a source in the Bank reportedly told Reuters.
Emerging market nations are seeking to challenge U.S. leadership at the bank to increase their influence in global economic institutions long controlled by rich nations.
While Kim is still the favorite to win the World Bank presidency because of his backing from the United States and European countries, a rigorous challenge from emerging market countries could put them in a stronger position to extract concessions favorable to their interests and also increase their odds of winning senior jobs in the future.
Earlier, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said that the BRICS group of emerging market countries is likely to make a joint decision on who to support for the World Bank top post as soon as Friday.
Mantega told reporters the five countries were still discussing which candidate they would support. The BRICS group also includes Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Ocampo, who met with Mantega on Thursday, said developing nations wanted a single candidate to challenge Kim.