Search for Zoellick’s job said to focus on merit

As World Bank officials continue their search to replace outgoing President Robert Zoellick, an executive director at the global lender is promising that the selection process will be transparent and merit-based.

The executive director, Hekinus Manao, acknowledged that many are frustrated at the bank’s custom of always picking an American as its president. But he said in an interview that the bank is committed to choosing the most qualified candidate.

“I agree to some extent that we could be skeptical, but we could also be optimistic. … If the shareholders are using these opportunities … to identify those with capabilities to be nominated, this is a good opportunity. So this is not all dependent on how the board and executive directors will decide by itself, but will depend on the global community and how it participates in this open process.”

Some experts, analysts, and developing nations say changing global and economic realities mean a more open process should be used to give talented officials from a variety of nations a chance at the bank’s top spot.

Current president Zoellick is not seeking renomination when his term ends at the end of June, and must be replaced. World Bank officials are taking nominations for the post until March 23, and hope to name a new president by April.

U.S. officials have said they will put forward a strong candidate, and many view Harvard economist and former presidential adviser Larry Summers as a likely nominee. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, once thought of as a possibility for the position, has said she is not interested in the job.

Some have said that Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Indian entrepreneur and government minister Nandan Nilekani could make the bank’s short list of candidates.

Under an informal agreement since the bank’s founding 68 years ago, its president has always been an American, while the head of the International Monetary Fund has been a European.

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