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(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the World Bank said the development lender should follow through on a commitment to lend less to China and refocus on its core mission of raising living standards in poor countries.
Trump this week nominated senior Treasury official David Malpass to be the next president of the global institution. The U.S. has historically chosen the World Bank president, but challengers from other countries can run and the bank’s board has the final vote.
If he gets the job, Malpass said the lender will reduce its lending to China, as expected under reforms it accepted last year in exchange for a capital increase, so that it can focus more resources on poorer nations. Malpass said he wants the bank to work more effectively on its mission of fighting extreme poverty, while also trying to create economic growth.
“It’s not at all a disengagement from China, but more a shift in the relationship so that more money can be available for the lower-income or developing countries,” he said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
China’s per-capita GDP is about $18,000 when adjusted for spending power, putting it around the middle of the global rankings along with countries like Brazil and Thailand.
Malpass had previously portrayed the World Bank as too inefficient and reluctant to scale back lending to developing countries that succeed in turning themselves into dynamic emerging markets. He has pushed the World Bank to lend less to China, arguing the world’s second-biggest economy has the financial resources to support itself.
He also played in a leading role in negotiating a $13-billion capital boost for the bank last year, after its shareholders agreed to reforms including less lending to higher-income emerging markets. In the interview Thursday, Malpass said he cares “deeply about the mission of the World Bank and of development in general.”
Malpass would replace Jim Yong Kim, who resigned last month to join an investment firm. Malpass’s past skepticism about international cooperation could provoke opposition from countries who believe the head of the World Bank should be a stout defender of the global order. Some experts are calling for the bank to break with tradition and appoint a non-American in a recognition of the growing clout of emerging markets such as China and India.
The lender’s board has given countries until March 14 to put forward candidates. Under an informal pact with Europe, the World Bank has always been led by an American, while the managing director of the International Monetary Fund has always been European.
Malpass said his nomination has been “well received” by other member countries, though he didn’t cite specific endorsements. Malpass will be traveling to other capitals in the coming weeks to lobby for support.
--With assistance from David Westin.
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