Rockefeller Foundation boss favourite to succeed David Malpass at World Bank | World Bank


The head of the Rockefeller Foundation, Rajiv Shah, has emerged as the favourite to succeed David Malpass as head of the World Bank amid calls for the White House to lose its stranglehold on choosing who should run the global development body.

Shah, a doctor, health expert and former head of the US Agency for International Development, is one of the names hotly tipped to be the Joe Biden’s administration choice as a replacement for Malpass following his announcement that he would be leaving his post by June.

But the likelihood that Washington will use a “gentleman’s agreement” under which the US picks the World Bank president while Europe chooses the managing director of its sister organisation – the International Monetary Fund – brought immediate calls for the process to be opened up.

“With the dismal Malpass gone, the US are already manoeuvring to appoint the new head of the Bank”, said Oxfam’s head of inequality policy, Max Lawson. “This neo-colonial 80-year-old stitch up has to end if the World Bank is to retain any credibility with the rest of the world.

“Joe Biden should back a fully transparent open recruitment process to show the world that his administration is different.”

The UK government accepts that the next World Bank president will have a US passport, which means the list of possible choices could include the current head of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was born in Nigeria but has American citizenship and previously worked at the bank for 25 years.

Kevin Watkins, the former head of the charity Save the Children, said: “It will be a US treasury appointment, which is outrageous. There should be a global search for the best candidate.”

Justine Greening, the former UK international development secretary, said there was a strong case for a tradition that stretches back to the founding of the World Bank and the IMF in 1944 to be broken.

“Because the World Bank is a development organisation it makes sense to have it run by someone for one of those countries”, Greening said. “We should be looking forward to how we want to do development in the 21st century not looking in the rear view mirror to how we did development in the 20th century.”

Liam Byrne, chair of the parliamentary network on the World Bank and IMF, said it was a moment when “the World Bank needs the best leadership it can get from anywhere in the world”, but it was also vital for the new president to be closely aligned with Yellen and Biden. “Congressional support for the bank is supremely important and the choice needs to be someone able to negotiate with Congress.

Malpass was Donald Trump’s choice to succeed Jim Yong Kim – a Barack Obama appointee – after his surprise decision to leave the World Bank in 2019. Janet Yellen, Biden’s treasury secretary, has made no secret of her unhappiness with Malpass and sources said he had decided to go before being formally denied a second five-year term.

In addition to Shah, a number of other American candidates are being floated for the World Bank job. These include Samantha Power, the current head of Usaid and previously US ambassador to the UN; Gayle Smith, who coordinated the US’s global response to Covid-19 and now runs the One Campaign, the development lobby group set up by Bono and Bob Geldof; and Wally Adeyemo, Yellen’s deputy at the US treasury, and who was responsible for coordinating the international effort to impose sanctions on the Kremlin following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Should the US agree to break with tradition, possible choices include Raghuram Rajan, the former governor of India’s central bank and once chief economist at the IMF; and José Antonio Ocampo, the finance minister of Colombia.

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