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Is Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala the best person for the World Bank job?

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The campaign for president of the World Bank has come down to three people. There’s the White House’s pick, Jim Yong Kim. And, for the first time, there are two non-American candidates: Colombia’s José Antonio Ocampo and Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: well-qualified, sure, but that might not cut it.

Lately, there’s been a spate of editorials touting Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister, as the most qualified choice for president. Here’s the Economist on her credentials: “She has not broken Nigeria’s culture of corruption — an Augean task — but she has sobered up its public finances and injected a measure of transparency.” Mohamed El-Erian, meanwhile, argues that it’s important to break with tradition and go with a non-American: “Her appointment would speak to other important initiatives with which Obama has aligned himself, including efforts to fight corruption, strengthen meritocracy, and support gender equality.”

Still, the odds that the World Bank’s shareholders will vote against the United States and vote for Okonjo-Iweala seem slim. The reason? Old-fashioned logrolling. Europe, one of the key swing votes, can’t afford to defy the White House when it’s still looking for more money to deal with its own debt crisis. Here’s Felix Salmon:

Europe is looking to the IMF to beef up the amount of money that it’s going to make available to the continent. In order for that to happen, the U.S. is going to have to support the increase in IMF funding. And so the outlines of a quid pro quo begin to emerge: the U.S. votes for greater IMF funding for Europe, and in return Europe votes to elect the U.S. candidate as president of the World Bank.

Euromess is truly the gift that keeps giving. The World Bank board will make its final decision on April 16.

And, by the way, if you’re wondering why there’s been so much fuss about the World Bank presidency, you’re not alone. Here’s a great big-picture piece by my colleague Howard Schneider asking whether the bank, which provides aid and loans to poorer countries, is still relevant in an age where trillions of dollars in private capital are now flowing in to the developing world.

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