The US has chosen Ajay Banga as the head of the World Bank

BENGALURU, India — The Biden administration has nominated Ajay Banga, the former longtime chief executive of MasterCard, as the next president of the World Bank, a move likely to drastically overhaul the global development agency and expand its ambitions to fight climate change.

The nomination will begin a month-long confirmation process before a final decision by the World Bank’s board. It is unclear whether any other countries will nominate a candidate. The president of the World Bank is traditionally an American citizen elected by the United States.

If confirmed, Mr. Banka will bring vast experience in running large enterprises and deep knowledge of the digital economy. Having grown up in India, he understands first-hand the challenges facing developing countries.

“Ajayi is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this important moment in history,” President Biden said in a statement. “He has spent more than three decades building and managing successful, global companies that create jobs and bring investment to developing economies, and lead companies through times of fundamental change.”

Speculation surrounding the candidacy has increased in the past week since the current World Bank president, David Malpass, announced that he will step down by the end of June, with one year left on his five-year term. Former President Donald J. Trump’s chosen Mr. Malpass has drawn criticism from climate activists and has sparked frustration among Biden administration officials for not focusing on the bank’s climate agenda.

For his views on climate change, Mr. Those concerns came to a head in September, when Malpass came under fire. When asked if he accepted the overwhelming scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is causing global warming, he demurred. “I’m not a scientist,” he said. The exchange, which occurred during a live interview at the New York Times event, Mr. Malpass had a slow public relations crisis.

Mr. Banka, including MasterCard, has sought to create a public stance expressing its concern about climate change. In 2020, under his watch, the company announced the formation of the Priceless Planet Alliance, a coalition of about 100 companies making corporate investments to protect the environment.

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“Climate change affects you no matter who you are or what you do. But it has the biggest negative impact on those who are socially and economically vulnerable,” Mr. Banga said at the time.

However, his choice may disappoint some climate activists, who have called on the Biden administration to appoint a president with a strong background on environmental issues. His lack of direct public sector experience may be viewed with skepticism by some development experts.

A central part of the next World Bank president’s job will be to restructure the institution to make it a key player in the West’s concerted effort to address global warming, despite concerns from some developing countries that the bank will break poverty. Reduction targets.

Mr. Banga described the challenge of climate change, which he called “humanity versus nature,” a matter of trade-offs that have dogged politicians for years.

“You use short-term solutions to long-term problems,” says Mr. Banga said in a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2021. “So you put a band aid on an open wound.”

Mr. Banka has become a close ally of Vice President Kamala Harris and is part of a group of 10 corporate executives who worked with her office to raise $1 billion aimed at stemming the root causes of immigration from Central America. Ms Harris cited poverty, corruption, climate change and political instability as drivers of migration.

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The collaboration has so far raised nearly $4 billion to support communities in the region. In an interview with The New York Times last fall, Mr. Banga said he approached the venture with the understanding that it would not result in short-term success.

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“Investing in a region requires patience, time and resilience,” says Mr. Banka said. She said Ms. Harris first became aware of her work feeding Syrian refugees. “It’s not just a vision, it has a practical reality that helps turn the vision into something tangible,” said Mr. Banka talked about using private sector funds to help migrants.

Mr. Banka is currently the vice chairman of private equity firm General Atlantic. He retired from MasterCard in 2021 after running the company for more than a decade, quadrupling its profits and becoming one of the most prominent Indian American executives in the US.

Before Mastercard, Mr. Banga worked for Citigroup and Nestlé in India for over a decade.

Son of an army general, Mr. Bhanga says that her upbringing, which revolved around different cities in India, made her very adaptable.

“The one thing that did it for me more than anything was this easy adaptability, willingness to adjust and willingness to fit in; I think it’s helped me throughout my life,” Mr Banga told The New York Times in 2020.

Mr. Banka has said her experience as an immigrant in the United States inspired her ambition to bring the 500 million “unbanked” people around the world into the financial system. Even though he had a good income when he moved to the US in 2000, even buying a cell phone was a challenge because he still had no credit history.

At an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2020, Mr. “At that point I had isolated myself financially,” says Banga. “Financial exclusion is not just about people with no income.”

He added: “There are people who don’t fit into the way we’ve built our financial system, so we have to find ways to help people navigate it.”

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The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors met this week to open the nomination process and Set criteria Its next leader. Those qualities include leadership and achievements, particularly proven track record in development, and experience managing large international organizations while familiar with the public sector.

The Board of Executive Directors said it would “strongly encourage the nomination of women candidates”.

A woman has never served as the bank’s permanent president, although Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, served as acting president in 2019.

Countries have until March 29 to present other candidates. The World Bank’s board hopes to elect a new president by May.

Biden administration officials, who said they did not know whether any other country would provide a nominee, said Mr. As Malpass’ term prepares to end, Mr. They explained that they were able to recommend Banga so early. Asked why the White House had not chosen a woman, as the executive committee had recommended, officials said Mr. Pointing to Banga’s dynamic background, they noted that she has a strong record of promoting gender equality and inclusion within organizations.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. is in India for a meeting of the 20-member group of finance ministers. Yellen said Thursday that the proposal would be forthcoming and that the process would be transparent and merit-based.

In a statement released by Ms. Yellen following the nomination announcement, Mr. Banga’s background made him a key partner at the World Bank in reducing poverty and combating climate change.

“Ajay Banga understands that those core objectives are deeply intertwined with the challenges of meeting ambitious goals for climate adaptation and emissions reductions, preparing for and preventing future pandemics, and mitigating the root causes and consequences of conflict and fragility,” Ms. Yellen said.

Coral Davenport and Jolan Kanno-Youngs reported from Washington.

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