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Ajay Banga starts work as new World Bank president

WB’s role in ‘quickly’ mobilising resources to respond to COVID-19, war in Ukraine

By AFP - Jun 03,2023 - Last updated at Jun 03,2023

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen meets with World Bank President Ajay Banga at the US Treasury in Washington, DC, Thursday (AFP photo)

WASHINGTON — Ajay Banga began his first day at the helm of the World Bank Group on Friday, taking charge of the development lender as it grapples with questions about its future direction.

"We are at a critical moment in the arc of humanity and the planet," Banga wrote Friday morning in an email to staff obtained by AFP, calling on the bank to "evolve" to meet the challenges it now faces.

An Indian-born, naturalized US citizen, Banga was nominated to the position by US President Joe Biden after a successful business career which included a long stretch running the payments company Mastercard.

Banga, 63, has taken over from David Malpass as the bank's 14th president on a pledge to expand the role of the private sector in addressing the world's development needs.

"The scale and diversity of our challenges — poverty and development, pandemics, climate change, conflict, and fragility — are deeply intertwined and threaten our collective ambitions, as decades worth of hard-won progress erode," Banga said in his email. 

"The World Bank's challenge is clear: It must pursue both climate adaptation and mitigation, it must reach out to lower income countries without turning its back on middle income countries, it must think globally but recognise national and regional needs, it must embrace risk but do so prudently," he added. 

"Change is appropriate for the World Bank," he said. "It isn't a symptom of failure or drift or irrelevance, it is a symptom of opportunity, life, and importance." 

Banga took over the top job at the World Bank from Malpass, who stepped down early from his five-year term amid questions about his stance on climate change.

Under an increasingly contentious unwritten arrangement, a US citizen has historically held the presidency of the Washington-based development lender, while the International Monetary Fund has been run by a European.

In his final message as World Bank president on Thursday, Malpass touted the World Bank's role in "quickly" mobilizing resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine, and highlighted the doubling of climate financing for developing countries under his watch.

"One of my key priorities while at the Bank has been to foster more debt transparency and sustainability — both essential to bolster investment and growth in developing economies," he wrote in the statement posted on LinkedIn.


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