US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she expected former Mastercard chief executive Ajay Banga to be elected president of the World Bank as nominations draw to a close.
Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday, Yellen said that if Banga secured the role, he would be “charged with accelerating our progress to evolve the institution to better address 21st-century challenges”.
Although nominations close at 6pm eastern time, two people familiar with the situation said they were unaware of any other candidates in contention on Wednesday morning.
While the US, the bank’s largest shareholder, has traditionally chosen the World Bank president, it requires backing by other member countries.
Banga’s push for the job comes as the lender finds itself under fire for failing to adequately address the scale of the global climate crisis while maintaining its mission to reduce poverty.
The bank’s current president, David Malpass, resigned from his post almost a year early last month, having faced intense pressure over his refusal at a conference last September to say whether he believed humans caused climate change. He later said his comments had been misinterpreted.
Banga has spent recent weeks on a “listening tour”, flanked by Treasury representatives, to tout his credentials and gather information that could prepare him for the role.
In an interview with the Financial Times earlier this month, Banga said the lender must do “everything it can” to squeeze more cash from its balance sheet while preserving its gold-plated credit rating.
A G20-commissioned report, released last summer, found multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, were potentially being more conservative than necessary to maintain their triple A credit rating from the three big rating agencies.
Banga said he would push to secure private sector support for projects underwritten by the bank, while looking into the G20-commissioned report into the so-called “capital adequacy frameworks” of multilateral development lenders such as the World Bank.
Earlier this year, Yellen urged the bank’s leadership to “quickly” put in place reforms to free up more money to address climate change.