Banga’s selection was not unanimous. Russia, which had previously said it was considering putting forward its own candidate for the job but ultimately did not, abstained from the vote, said a person close to the selection process. A senior administration official said the board’s votes are “strictly confidential” but that Banga was “elected with resounding approval.”
The position of World Bank president traditionally goes to an American citizen. Banga holds U.S. citizenship but was born and raised in India.
Banga will now oversee the World Bank’s pivot as it aims to become a dominant player in climate finance and help low-income economies bankroll the transition to cleaner energy sources and manufacturing processes.
But those priorities will cost trillions of dollars that shareholders like the U.S. and European Union are not eager to spend at the moment. What’s more, the bank must also contend with other pressing needs facing the world’s poorest countries, including rising food insecurity and unsustainable levels of debt.
“Ajay understands that the challenges we face — from combating climate change, pandemics, and fragility to eliminating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity — are deeply intertwined,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The bank has begun adopting reforms that will “sharpen” its mission, Yellen continued, adding that “our ambitious goals will not be met overnight, and we remain committed to a staged adoption of reforms over the course of the year to build on the vision we have laid out.”
The White House recognizes that the World Bank faces a pivotal moment as countries face concerning levels of debt and the global economy continues to contend with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s war in Ukraine, a second senior administration official told reporters Wednesday.
“Getting the evolution of the World Bank right is absolutely critical to meeting the moment,” the second official said, adding that Biden believes Banga “has the track record and the know how to rise to the occasion and make sure the World Bank delivers for the globe.”
Banga was the president and chief executive officer of credit card giant Mastercard from 2010 to 2020 and remained the company’s executive chairman for a year after that. He left to join General Atlantic, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, where he served as vice chairman.
The World Bank’s current president, David Malpass, announced earlier this year that he would step down in June. Malpass was nominated by then-President Donald Trump in 2019 and selected for a five-year term.
Adam Behsudi contributed to this report.