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World Bank board elects US nominee Ajay Banga as president

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U.S. nominee to head World Bank, Ajay Banga, stands with officials during his visit at the headquarters of Ivorian electricity company of Yopougon in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 7, 2023. REUTERS/Luc Gnago/File Photo/File Photo

The World Bank’s 25-member executive board on Wednesday elected former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga to a five-year term as president, effective June 2, the bank said, ushering in an Indian-born finance and development expert charged with revamping the lender to tackle climate change and other global crises.

Banga, 63, was nominated for the post by U.S. President Joe Biden in late February and was the sole contender to replace departing World Bank chief David Malpass, an economist and former U.S. Treasury official who served in the Trump administration.

The election came after World Bank board members interviewed Banga for four hours on Monday. Malpass’s last day at the bank will be June 1. The decision came in a vote by 24 of the board’s members, with Russia abstaining, instead of the usual consensus-based process, a source familiar with the process said.

Sources familiar with the process had expected Banga to win the board’s approval handily after several meetings with board members in recent weeks and Monday’s formal interview.

One of the sources called Banga a “true change maker” who will help accelerate reforms at the global development bank. It already loans out hundreds of billions of dollars to developing countries but is working to increase its lending to help them address global challenges such as climate change.

“The Board looks forward to working with Mr. Banga on the World Bank Group Evolution process, as discussed at the April 2023 Spring Meetings, and on all the World Bank Group’s ambitions and efforts aimed at tackling the toughest development challenges facing developing countries,” the bank said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Reuters last month that attracting more private capital for development goals would be a key area of focus for Banga if he is approved.

Biden announced Banga’s candidacy during Yellen’s participation in a meeting of Group of 20 finance officials in Bengalaru, India, a source familiar with the process said.

Once it became public, she and her top traveling aides immediately began selling their counterparts on Banga’s candidacy, the source said.

The World Bank has been led by an American since its founding at the end of World War Two, while the International Monetary Fund has been led by a European. Banga, who was born in India and spent his early career there, has been a U.S. citizen since 2007.

Banga has met with officials from 96 governments since his nomination, the source said. He visited eight countries during a three-week world tour to meet with government officials, business leaders and civil society groups, flying a total of 39,546 miles (63,643 km).

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