When the new president met world leaders for the first time, he was pleasantly surprised

When the new president met world leaders for the first time, he was pleasantly surprised

In a world characterized by wars and increasing conflicts between great powers, the new president of the World Bank appears optimistic.

Ajay Banga has been selected by US President Joe Biden to lead the World Bank.

The short version

– They did not throw stones at each other or stop talking to each other, says Ajay Banga.

The World Bank’s new CEO has come straight from the G20 summit in Oslo. Aftenposten asked what the atmosphere was like at the meeting.

The summit in India was the first time that Banga participated in the room where presidents and prime ministers meet. He says he was pleasantly surprised by how well world leaders spoke to each other.

The only man who was relatively isolated was the Russian Foreign Minister. You know why, he says.

– Otherwise, everyone talked to each other. The Chinese Prime Minister even held meetings with everyone who was there.

Fresh in action

Until President Joe Biden chose him to lead the World Bank, Ajay Banga worked in the private sector. He has extensive experience in industry and finance, and came to the World Bank after serving as CEO of MasterCard.

The main mission of the World Bank is to combat poverty by providing loans and credit to projects capable of generating growth in poor countries. Banga explained that the job description should extend to combating climate change.

His predecessor, David Malpass, was appointed by Donald Trump. He did not answer clearly whether he believed climate change was man-made. This scared the customers. Malblas resigned this winter, before the end of his five-year term.

– We must understand that we cannot fight poverty if we do not care about climate, women’s rights, refugees, war and food security, says Banga.

He says the discussion about climate change is different when you move around the world. In rich countries, people talk about energy and emissions. In countries where people struggle to provide food for their families, there is talk of irrigation, rain, soil depletion and loss of biodiversity.

Emissions from energy production are a large part of the cause of climate change. But the consequences are felt most strongly in poor countries.

– Although we feel it here too, with the forest fires and floods, he says.

The new World Bank president has experience from the business world that many of his predecessors lacked.

The new World Bank president has experience from the business world that many of his predecessors lacked.

The vaccine as a role model

Banga is convinced that the world is capable of finding solutions. He uses the Covid vaccine as an example.

-We were very concerned that the distribution was unfair at first. But if we look at history, no vaccine has been available within two months. I personally didn’t think we would get a vaccine. All my education tells me it will take at least ten years. I think we’re very humble about what we can achieve when our backs are against the wall.

But when the pandemic hit, even the richest countries had their backs against the wall. We don’t have the same urgency when it comes to poverty, do we?

– No, but when it comes to climate, the backs of the rich are also up against the wall. In this sense, the problem would be greater if it concerned only the poor. But we’re seeing it now, with wildfires and hurricanes – just look at what’s happening in the United States. No one believes that climate change is limited to one country.

He says the impression from the summit in India is that world leaders have the same opinion as he does. – Banga says: – You had to sit there and hear them talking together.

Don’t be afraid of BRICS

Before the G20 summit, the leaders of the so-called BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa met in South Africa. Russia was also represented at this meeting by Foreign Minister President Sergei Lavrov. President Putin risks arrest if he leaves Russia. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has prioritized the BRICS, while sending his prime minister to the G20.

BRICS aims to become a counterweight to the West. It also includes creating alternatives to the World Bank, for example. Banga says he is not afraid of such competition.

– No, no, our challenges are very great. Believing that one institution should be able to solve these problems is naive. I believe our job is to work with others.

He cites several examples of how the World Bank works with other development banks, and continues:

-I no longer worry about the relationship with other actors. At my old job I would have done that.

You must cooperate

In recent years, both Russia and China have offered poor countries loans and investments, including on the African continent. It was called “the new race for Africa.” By providing financial and military aid, countries secure new friends. The result may be a world divided into blocs that do not cooperate.

– It’s a challenge, that’s for sure, says Banga.

-Is the challenge a way of stating the problem?

– It is a big challenge when you deal with problems that know no borders, such as climate or the pandemic, Banga answers.

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Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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