The Biden administration’s choice to run the World Bank — former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga — appears to have a lock on the job.
The World Bank said Thursday that Banga was the only candidate nominated in a search that began more than a month ago.
Banga, currently vice chairman at private equity firm General Atlantic, has more than 30 years of business experience, having served in various roles at Mastercard and the boards of the American Red Cross, Kraft Foods, and Dow Inc.
The Executive Directors of the @WorldBank today selected Ajay Banga as the President of the World Bank. Mr. Banga begins his five-year term on June 2, 2023.
— World Bank (@WorldBank) May 3, 2023
The current president of the 189-nation poverty-fighting organization, David Malpass, announced last month that he would step down in June, nearly a year before his five-year term was due to expire in April 2024.
Ajay Banga, nominated by President Joe Biden for the post, is the first-ever Indian American to head the bank.
He will replace David Malpass, who had sparked outcry by appearing to question the role of humans in climate change.
A transformative leader
Now a US citizen, Banga started his career in his native India, where his father was an officer in the army. He worked at Nestle and Citigroup before joining Mastercard where he stayed for more than a decade.
US President Joe Biden called him “a transformative leader” who had the experience to run the World Bank.
In announcing Banga’s confirmation, the bank’s executive directors said in a statement that they looked forward to working with him “on all the World Bank Group’s ambitions and efforts aimed at tackling the toughest development challenges facing developing countries.”
Made in India Made for the World
Congratulations AjajJi @WorldBank
Indian-American business executive Ajay Banga was selected on Wednesday as the World Bank's new president. "The board looks forward to working with Mr Banga on the World Bank Group Evolution process," the board… pic.twitter.com/X72GoUPLBc
— Ravi Karkara (@ravikarkara) May 3, 2023
US in charge of the selection
The United States has traditionally picked the World Bank chief, which lends billions of dollars to countries each year. The head of its sister agency, the International Monetary Fund, has traditionally come from Europe. But critics have called for an end to that arrangement and for developing countries to gain a bigger voice in the two organizations.
Developing countries have in the past complained about this, but Banga was the only candidate for president.
“Ajay was elected with resounding approval from the executive directors, and will start his mandate with incredibly strong support from the membership of the World Bank,” a senior US official said about the vote.
Banga’s appointment comes at a consequential moment for the development organisation.
PMLF congratulates Indian-born, American business executive and Padma Shri recipient, Shri Ajay Banga for being appointed as the President of the @WorldBank.
We wish him a successful tenure and hope that World Bank continues to promote shared prosperity on global stage. pic.twitter.com/SCxTPutmht
— Pranab Mukherjee Legacy Foundation- PMLF (@CitiznMukherjee) May 3, 2023
The US and other wealthy nations have been pushing the bank to increase its lending to fight climate change. The bank’s $100 billion per year or so of loans to help developing countries cope with climate change falls far short of the $1 trillion they say is needed.
Many developing nations are worried the focus on climate change will divert attention away from its anti-poverty efforts.
Congratulations to Ajay Banga for being confirmed as the new president of the World Bank! As a former CEO of Mastercard, he brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the role. Excited to see his impact on the global community. #AjayBanga #WorldBank #WorldBankPresident pic.twitter.com/G8LP8wFiY3
— Anand Mohan 🇮🇳 (@AnandMo00714761) May 4, 2023
Developing countries have been hard hit by the pandemic, rises in food and in energy prices, and unsustainable levels of debt.
As president of the World Bank, Banga will have to address these issues – all without any clear additional money on the table.
In an interview in March, when Banga was on a listening tour in Africa, he said he wanted the bank to be a “catalyst” and “thought leader” for action,
“We also need to bring in the private sector to be able to reach these ambitious targets that we all have,” he said.