Support builds for Sachs World Bank bid

18/03/2012 | Phil Thornton and Lucien Chauvin

Economist Jeffrey Sachs’ hopes of becoming the next president of the World Bank received a boost this weekend as more Latin nations threw their weight behind his candidacy

The bid by Jeffrey Sachs to capture the presidency of the World Bank appeared to be generating a groundswell of support in Latin America last night after three more countries lent their support to his bid.

Explicit backing by Chile and Colombia and strongly-worded support by Mexico came a day after Emerging Markets revealed that Uruguay was backing Sachs, who set out his agenda in an exclusive interview in this newspaper. Haiti is already backing him.

The finance minister of Mexico, which holds the chair of the Group of 20 rich and emerging nations, said it viewed Sach’s surprise self-nomination for the post “quite positively”.

“We are closely watching this process,” said Jose Antonio Meade. “We think Jeffrey Sachs, who is a prestigious economist and knows Latin America well, has made important contributions, and we view his interest quite positively.

“We need to see what other candidates express interest, how the process develops, and at the end of the day, hope that it complies with what G-20 has said, that the multilaterals undertake these processes clearly and transparently and based on merit.”

Mexico was one of the most outspoken countries a year ago when the sudden resignation of IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn created a vacancy that was filled by French finance minister Christine Lagarde.

Many emerging economies have long complained about a “gentlemen’s agreement” that has given control of the Bank to an American and the IMF to a European since they were founded 70 years ago.

Juan Carlos Echeverry, Colombia’s finance Minister, told Emerging Markets: “We like the name of Jeffrey Sachs and together with other countries, Chile and Uruguay, we are promoting this candidacy.”

In his interview with Emerging Markets on Friday, Sachs backed the idea of an open merit-based context and said he wanted to be “a candidate that has broad worldwide support”.

“I am certainly not running as the US candidate. The countries know me and know I am not someone who represents one country, politics or policy – I never have.”

Sachs has also received the endorsement of six other countries - Kenya, Bhutan, Jordan, Malaysia, Namibia and Timor-Leste.

On Friday 27 members of the US Congress wrote to President Barack Obama “strongly encouraging” him to nominate Sachs as the US candidate.

However he has run into opposition over his role in advising the governments of Bolivia and Russia over their economic reform programmes.

Colin Bradford, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Sachs’s nomination had attracted “controversy” but stressed he had a made a positive contribution by putting his name forward. “There is no doubt of his commitment to development and poverty reduction and there is no doubt he is a thought leader in his field,” he told Emerging Markets.

He said he was disappointed no one from an emerging market had put their name forward despite speculation surrounding figures such as World Bank managing director Sri Mulyani, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, ex-Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo.

“I would hope that someone else would step forward from another emerging country,” Bradford said. “Then the bank could have an honest real conversation about merits because you have more than one candidate.”

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