US nominates Indian-origin Ajay Banga to lead World Bank

US President Joe Biden has nominated Indian-origin corporate leader Ajay Banga, vice chairman of General Atlantic and former president and CEO of MasterCard, to be the World Bank’s next president. The nomination comes at a critical juncture in the Bank’s ambitious internal reform.

Banga has more than 30 years of   business expertise and has held a number of positions at Mastercard as well as on the boards of Dow Inc., Kraft Foods, and the American Red Cross. He is the first Indian-born candidate for president of the World Bank.

The announcement comes only days after current World Bank President David Malpass announced his intention to leave in June, before the end of his tenure. Malpass’ fiveyear contract with the World Bank was set to expire in April 2024.

Upon the announcement of Banga’s name, Joe Biden acknowledged him with significant experience on global issues such as climate change. Biden in a statement said, “Ajay is uniquely equipped to lead the World Bank at this critical moment in history.”

He added that Banga “has critical experience mobilising public-private resources to tackle the most urgent challenges of our time, including climate change.”

In addition, Banga had significant expertise in bringing together “public-private resources to tackle the most urgent challenges of our day, including climate change,” according to Biden. “Raised in India,  Ajay has a unique perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing developing countries and how the World Bank can deliver on its ambitious agenda to reduce poverty and expand prosperity,” Biden added.

Meanwhile, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asserted in a statement that Banga’s experience “will help him
achieve the World Bank’s objectives of eliminating extreme poverty and expanding shared prosperity while pursuing the changes required to effectively evolve the institution,” including meeting “ambitious goals for climate adaptation and emissions reduction.”

The official nomination process for Malpass’ replacement began earlier on Thursday, although a final decision is not expected until early May.

Banga’s candidature is the first to be made public, although nominations from other member countries will be accepted until March 29. Germany, another significant stakeholder, suggested this week that the role should go to a woman because the bank has never had a female Director in its 77-year history.

Banga left Mastercard Inc in December 2021 after 12 years as CEO, where he set a goal of bringing 1 billion individuals and 50 million micro- and small companies into the digital economy by 2025.

He is also co-chair of the Partnership for Central America, where he collaborated with US Vice President Kamala Harris to mobilise governmental, private, and nonprofit resources for Northern Central America.

Banga has profound roots in India. Banga was born in Pune in 1959 into an Indian military family. His father, Harbhajan Singh Banga, retired as a lieutenant general in the army. Banga attended St. Stephens’ College at Delhi University and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

He began his career at Nestle in 1981, then relocated to India to work for PepsiCo before moving to the United States in 2000 to work for Citigroup in New York. His brother, MS Banga, is a well-known corporate leader who served as the chairman and CEO of Hindustan Lever.

As a past chairman of the USIndia Business Council, a founding trustee of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), and chairman emeritus of the American India Foundation, Banga has been deeply active in improving the IndiaUS connection. In 2016, the Indian government bestowed the Padma Shri honour upon him. Banga has
maintained tight ties with India’s top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

USISPF president Mukesh Aghi congratulated the nomination, saying Ajay Banga had been a “tireless believer in the strength of US-India ties and strengthening the relationship even further. Ajay’s background in his early years in
India gives him a deep understanding of the emerging market world and bridging the gaps in gender parity
and working towards poverty alleviation, issues at the core ethos of the Bank’s mission.”

He added that Banga was a key figure in establishing USISPF as a founding board member and a pillar of its success.
Banga has also had a tight relationship with the field of American public policy. Banga was appointed to President Barack Obama’s advisory group on trade policy and negotiations in 2015; he also served on Obama’s commission
on boosting national cybersecurity.

He has worked closely with Vice President Kamala Harris as the cochair for partnership with Central America in the current administration, and he is a member of the Trilateral Commission, which aims to enhance collaboration between the United States, Western Europe, and Japan.

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