World Banks Wolfensohn May Extend Term: Deputy

Gaborone, March 24 | Updated: Mar 25 2004, 05:30am hrs
World Bank President James Wolfensohn may stay on when his second term expires in 2005, one of his deputies said on Tuesday, while a civil society body said the decision hinged on the outcome of the US election.

The issue is a vexing one as European governments jostle over the choice of a successor for IMF chief Horst Koehler who resigned on March 4 and developing countries call for a more transparent process in selecting the heads of both lenders.

Our understanding is indeed that Mr Wolfensohns second term does end towards the middle of next year. However, it is not certain that he will stand down, said Ian Goldin, vice-president for the World Banks external affairs.

Towards the middle of next year...there could be a leadership change it depends (on developments), Mr Goldin said, without elaborating. He was speaking to reporters at a civil society world assembly in Botswanas capital Gaborone.

Kumi Naidoo, head of the Civicus civil society body that organised the event, told the same news conference that Wolfensohns future hinged on the coming US presidential election, which will be held in November.

Civil Society is watching with bated breath the outcome of the US Presidential elections. If US president George W Bush wins the next election, it is our view that he is very unlikely to support an extension of the term, Mr Naidoo said.

Mr Naidoo said his organisation would welcome a longer term for Mr Wolfensohn.

Mr Goldin was responding to a question over whether a non-American president would ever be appointed at the World Bank. There have been mounting calls for changes in the tradition which has seen the Washington-based IMF job go to a European while the World Bank post is taken by an American.

History does suggest that the United States has the call on nominations to the World Bank, and Europe has the call on the IMF (International Monetary Fund)...but this is not set in stone, he said.