World Bank President Robert Zoellick Tells Board He Will Step Down June 30

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON — World Bank President Robert Zoellick said Wednesday he is stepping down, raising the possibility that a non-American might be chosen for the first time to head the 187-nation lending organization.

Zoellick, 58, informed the board he will leave June 30 at the end of a five-year term, during which he led the bank’s response to the global financial crisis.

The board now begins looking for a new president under guidelines directors adopted in 2011 calling for an “open, merit-based and transparent selection” process.

That suggests a break from the informal agreement that dates to the bank’s founding almost 68 years ago, under which the bank’s president is an American and the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, is a European.

There is no guarantee that a non-American will be chosen to again head the bank even though China is now the world’s second largest economy, and other countries with growing economic clout have been exerting pressure for a change in the U.S.-European arrangement.

The IMF was supposed to follow the same open selection guidelines when it searched for a new managing director last year, but wound up again choosing a European, former French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries.

In a statement, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner praised Zoellick’s leadership at the World Bank and said the administration would put forward a candidate for the World Bank board to consider as his replacement.

“We encourage the board to move forward with an open and expeditious process,” Geithner said. “In the coming weeks, we plan to put forward a candidate with the experience and requisite qualities to take this institution forward.”

Geithner’s comments did not indicate whether the administration would be willing to back a non-American for the top job at the World Bank. But the United States controls the largest share of votes on the World Bank board, giving it significant say in who leads the institution.

Oxfam, an international aid agency often critical of the bank, said developing countries should play a major role in choosing a successor to Zoellick.

A spokeswoman, Elizabeth Olsen, said, “The bank only operates in developing countries, so any candidate not supported by a majority of these countries would plainly lack legitimacy.”

Source: The Washington Post (link opens in a new window)

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