The World Bank is getting a new chief. Will he pivot toward climate action?

By | April 9, 2023

The New York Times reports:

As World Bank shareholders gather in Washington for their annual spring meeting on Monday, the global institution appears to be on the brink of significant change.

World leaders, led by Prime Ministers Emmanuel Macron of France and Mia Mottley of Barbados, along with a constellation of academics and development experts want the bank to do more to help poor countries grappling with climate change. The bank has set out its own vision for transformation, in response to calls for action from the United States and others. Major shareholders have approved some initial reforms, including agreements to let the bank lend more money and attract more private investment.

At the center of the discussions will be Ajay Banga, who is widely expected to be confirmed as president of the bank in the coming weeks. When he takes over this summer, he will face high expectations and urgent questions about whether the bank will change its lending model, whether it will seek more money from shareholders and how he will direct the bank to address issues including poverty, global warming and the war in Ukraine.

“He’ll get a honeymoon, but he better use that honeymoon well,” said Mark Malloch-Brown, the president of the Open Societies Foundation and a former vice president of the World Bank. “These institutions do not change quickly.”

A longtime finance executive, Mr. Banga, 63, became chief executive at Mastercard in 2010, shortly after the company, which had been owned by a coalition of more than 25,000 financial institutions, went public. During 10 years as C.E.O., he built Mastercard into a powerhouse now worth $350 billion.

“He fundamentally transformed what was a slow, bank-association culture into a high-performing, agile, innovative, proactive, now Fortune 20 company,” said Mike Froman, a longtime Mastercard executive who is preparing to take over the Council on Foreign Relations. “That involved everything from leadership, motivation, vision, but also very importantly, changing culture.”

Critics of the bank complain that, in addition to being insufficiently focused on climate change, it is woefully slow to respond to major crises and lacks ambition and creativity. [Continue reading…]