As I write this piece the successful candidate to head the prime institution of the Bretton Wood financial System, The World Bank, is about to emerge. At the heart of the election are 25 of the banks Executive Board members who will elect between Nigerian Finance Minister and head of the country’s economic development team, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo – Iweala and Young Kim an American Doctor, anthropologist and President of Partners in Health.
Elections of such nature attract the attention and interest of a wide scope of individuals, nations and bodies. The World Bank is a major institution saddled with the financial and economic development and well-being of nations across the world, especially developing nations. Its primary objective is to focus on poverty eradication. This to many is worth paying attention to. The question here however is, is God in all He stands for interested in the outcome of tomorrow’s election and does He have a candidate?
Simply, the answer is YES!
The bible tells us concerning God: “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy out of the dunghill that he may sit him with Princes, even with the Princes of his people" (Psalm 113:7) If, as stated officially, the World Bank's goal is the reduction of poverty then indeed God would love to have a say in the affairs of this institution.
If only we would permit him!
God is interested in the poor. Numerous bible passages lay emphasis on the need to make provision for them. In fact, in most cases, candidates of God for plum positions are either those who fall into this category or who have the poor at heart. King David is a clear cut example who readily comes to mind.
With the foregoing background let’s have a peak into the personality of the candidates.
When it comes to World Bank affairs Okonjo-Iweala needs no introduction. Having spent the past 25 years working for the institution she has served as its Managing Director rising to the number two position in the financial body. Within this period she has stepped back twice to handle the portfolio of the finance Minister of the Nigerian Government.
Okonjo-Iweala comes across as humble and unassuming. Her simple outlook and appearance could be deceptive. Nothing suggests the acquired knowledge and skills of a well-seasoned Banker. In the place of the usual trappings and paraphernalia of many who are high placed in this profession appears a woman who is usually clad in simple Ankara clothing! This is the choice of the poor (without another choice actually) and falls amongst the cheapest kind of African clothing you can come by (although, I am aware that there are expensive brands in the market.)
The wife of a Medical Doctor, despite her demure, nothing can be taken away from Iweala’s determination and willingness to help the poor. A legacy of hers concerning her role in the Nigerian government is the successful negotiation for a relief of the country's debt. Okonjo-Iweala knows her onions. She has acquired depth and breadth in World banking experience and in a debate on the subject will arguably remain unbeaten. Ex-staff/officials of the institution realise this as 39 of them endorsed her candidacy recently. However, when presenting a case for the job she may sound as professional as simple: “Emerging and developing countries are contributing over 50% of global growth... I will make the bank more nimble, fast and effective," she offered on the subject.
Elsewhere she said; “I will be looking at getting things done in days and weeks not months and years”.
Though highly placed she also knows what it takes to identify with the lowly. “Developing nations want to be part of this global governance, they deserve a voice” She stated like a mother pleading for her ostractised children, during an interview with CNN.
No one would have expected her to give up her job with the World Bank to take up a less paying lucrative one as a minister of the Nigerian Government but she has done so on invitation not once, but twice with little resistance. First under President Olusegun Obansanjo and presently, under President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. What is her motivation? – to help the needy. If God’s plan is to come down through man to effect changes in the life of his people then Okonjo-Iweala is a sure bet for this role.
On the other hand is Kim Young. Young’s candidacy for the position of the World Bank Presidency is as strange as it is interesting. When it comes to professionalism Kim is at par with Okonjo-Iweala. Only that he is from a different profession! The Korean - American Physician was the former chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Havard Medical School. He was a co-founder and Executive Director of partners in Health and the President of Dartmouth College. He has travelled around the world on matters of healthcare for the poor and is considered an expert in his field. As regards experience working in the Financial Institution and banking sector however, the World Bank President position will be his first job. Well I guess it is a good place to start from!
Kim is the U.S and President Barack Obama’s choice for the position. A mind-over-matter modern day advocate, since his nomination he has travelled wide interviewing national key figures, acquiring knowledge as regards their expectations from the World Bank. His forte as a medical practitioner is in the area of the mind and he believes that a well developed brain is the key to success in all strata’s of life. He has a focus on the youth and while at Darmouth engages in and delivers motivational lectures (which are as humorous as educating.) Kim has a way with people and knows how to positively change a person’s mindset. Whether the egg-heads at the World Bank will permit this to happen is another matter!
Factors behind Young candidacy are varied. For starters the World Bank Presidents’ slot is property of the U.S. For the past 60 years of the institution this has been the tradition. Iweala’s challenge, being a non-American and an African is the first attempt to break this trend. Another factor is high level politics. Colombian Jose Anthonio Ocampo was once one of the contenders for the job. This was until he found out that his home country refused to back his candidacy for other political interests. He has since thrown the weight of his support behind Okonjo-Iweala!
Futhermore, the US, being the main funders of the institution under a silent agreement are bound to have the backing of Europe which always presents the presidency of IMF, another Bretton Wood Institution.
President Obama is known as a change proponent. His backing of Young could be found in his desire to change status quo and Young Kim’s credentials in the health sector. In Iweala however, if she manages to scale through he will find a change proponent similar to himself in the sense that she will be breaking a three decade tradition and bring a wind of change in seeing an institution meant for the poor being managed by a true representative of the poor (considering she was nominated and backed by South Africa and Angola respectively.)
Now we go back to God’s will in the equation. Who would he want to see emerge as the next President of the World Bank? Is it the woman who bears the pains of a continent in her bosom or a man who, by the nature of his profession, has the Midas Touch.
Maybe God will come down and take up the appointment Himself; through one of them though– the person whose best interest has the poor at heart.