The head of the World Bank said on Saturday it is right for the United States to take a leading role in some global institutions and that the right U.S. candidate for post of the bank's next president would be good for the United States and the bank.
In an interview in Singapore, Robert Zoellick also said he did not believe Spain, Italy or Portugal needed bailouts to ease massive debt burdens but that reforms needed critical support of Germany and other European leading nations.
The World Bank last week launched the nomination process to select a new president to succeed Zoellick when he steps down in June, inviting names from any of its 187 member countries. The Obama administration has said it would open the process to competition.
Some nations say it is time for a non-American candidate to take the helm of the bank, pointing to growing economic clout of the developing world.
Zoellick said he had no role in choosing his successor but made the point that Americans did not hold top posts at the United Nations, World Trade Organization, regional banks or International Monetary Fund.
“I want the United States to feel a sense of responsibility to the international system. So in that sense if you get the right American candidate I think that can be good for the United States and the bank.”
So far, two people most often mentioned as possible successors are both American: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former White House economic adviser and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. The State Department has insisted that Clinton would not be taking the job.
Mexico’s central bank chief said on Wednesday the United States and Europe should not be afraid of competition when it comes to selecting candidates for top international posts.
Agustin Carstens, Mexico’s central bank governor, who had made a bid to head up the International Monetary fund last year in a challenge to Europe’s hold on the world lender, said the same principle applied to the World Bank.
Zoellick said the latest Greek bailout totaling 130 billion euros would merely buy Greece time.
“It’s too early to know, partly it depends on the actions the Greeks have to take,” he said.
“I think that the European Union has dealt with Greece as one element but the core elements are really going to be the success of some of the bigger countries, such as Italy and Spain.”
But he said bailouts weren’t necessary for these two countries or Portugal.
“Each country’s situation is different and you really have three interconnected problems. For some it’s the size of the sovereign debt, for some it’s the effect on the banking industry, and for some it’s their competitiveness.
“And I think Spain and Italy need time to make the reforms ... the reforms being not only ones that deal with the fiscal questions but also building competitiveness for the future.”
“So I don’t think bailouts are necessary but I do think that all this is harder to accomplish when there is a recession in Europe.”
Support from other European nations was also crucial.
“What I’ve tried to suggest, given the politics of reform in some of the Mediterranean countries, (is that) it will be important for Germany and other leaders in the process to show some prospects if the reforms are taken and how they will be supported by the other European countries.”