There’s been plenty of discussion on this blog and elsewhere about Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the surprise US pick, Jim Yong Kim has provoked a flurry of interest, not least in his dancing prowess, but former Colombian finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo seems to have sneaked through under the radar. So I thought we should see why his supporters are backing him. Here’s the most detailed campaign pitch, from Boston University Professor Kevin Gallagher, writing in the Financial Times:
If the decision is finally based on merit, as it should be, Ocampo will win: he is far and away better than any on the list of credible names, including President Barack Obama’s nominee, Jim Yong Kim.
Ocampo has the utmost credibility as a policy-maker and diplomat; he works well with the US and developing countries alike; and he is one of the leading academic economists in the field of development.
He is known as a former finance minister but he also served Colombia as minister of agriculture and minister of planning. He has intimate knowledge and experience working with both small and large farmers and on infrastructure and investment projects needed for sustainable growth. This experience will be essential given the current global food crisis.
As finance minister of Colombia he helped the country weather the effects of financial crises in Asia and Latin America. Indeed, he crafted unique and effective measures such as unremunerated reserve requirements whereby foreign investors had to park a certain amount of their capital at the Central Bank. He is now a member of a high-level task force that aims to help nations prevent and mitigate future crises.
Ocampo won points from the US for these efforts and for collaborating with it on a clamp-down on drug-related money-laundering. Colombia is arguably the US’s closest partner in South America and Ocampo has earned the trust of Americans at the highest level. The significance of this should not be overlooked given that it is the US that would have to “give up” the World Bank seat.
His success landed him the presidency of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean – which he turned into Latin America’s premier development institution by refocusing it on open trade, export competitiveness, innovation and policy alleviation. He was then tapped to be UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, an organization that he also significantly reformed. He improved implementation, created a global development cooperation forum, and held the first ever global conference on international migration and development, earning a truly world-wide reputation as a top notch policy-maker.
Not only would Ocampo have global legitimacy twinned with a special relationship with the US; he would also get more respect from World Bank staff. He has a PhD in economics from Yale and is seen as one of the foremost development economists in academia. He has published widely on labour markets, inequality, public debt, education, macro-economics, industrial innovation, climate change and green development. He has recently been awarded prestigious annual lectureships and prizes at the UN, the World Institute for Development Research and Tufts University.