BRASILIA Brazil wants emerging economic powers to rally around a single candidate to lead the World Bank as developing nations strive to bolster their influence at the global lender, Finance Minister Guido Mantega said on Thursday.
Mantega met earlier on Thursday with the U.S. nominee for the top post, Jim Yong Kim, whom Mantega said showed vast experience in the developing world. He reiterated, however, that Brazil has not yet made up its mind.
"By late next week Brazil should have a position on the matter, and I will talk with the other BRICS," Mantega told reporters in Brasilia. "We are working for the BRICS to have a joint position."
Besides Brazil, the BRICS group includes China, Russia, India and South Africa. The group has called for "a merit based process" to pick the next head of the World Bank.
A U.S. citizen has headed the World Bank since it was created after World War Two.
But developing nations are challenging that tradition and are seeking more influence in global institutions that reflect their growing economic strength.
Developing nations have nominated Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo for the top job.
Brazil declined to immediately throw its support behind the Nigerian candidate during last week's BRICS summit, raising the prospect that Latin America's top economy may try to extract emerging-market friendly concessions from the U.S. candidate in return for support.
In 2011, Brazil failed to convince other BRICS to jointly back a candidate to head the International Monetary Fund. Brazilians ended up backing current IMF chief Christine Lagarde in exchange for the continuation of reforms to increase the voice of emerging-market countries in the institution.
Emerging-market nations face an uphill battle to unseat the United States without the unified support to a single candidate, a senior Brazilian official involved in the talks told Reuters.
"It is a very tough battle," said the official, who asked for anonymity to speak freely. "But is not always about betting on the winner."
South Africa is backing Okonjo-Iweala for the post. The other BRICS are still undecided, the Brazilian official said.
Mantega said Kim has an excellent resume and wants to continue with changes at the World Bank that increase the representation of emerging-market nations.
Other Brazilian officials said Mantega was impressed with the credentials of Kim, an articulate physician who was largely unknown to Brazilian policymakers before his nomination in March.
Kim, president of Dartmouth College, is on a world tour to seek support for his candidacy. He has already secured support from Japan and is expected to garner the backing of Europe to win the race.
From fighting drug-resistant tuberculosis in Peru to allowing millions in poor countries to receive HIV treatment, Kim has experience dealing with development issues. The United States is hoping his experience could sway some emerging-market powers like Brazil to support Kim.
"There is not doubt that he has good experience," Mantega said. "He has lived some of the issues that poor, emerging countries face."
Mantega said he still needs to speak with Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, whom he described as great candidates, before making a decision. He said he knows both candidates personally and that they have great credentials as economists.
Brazil nominated Ocampo in the name of the Dominican Republic, one of its constituents as member of a the World Bank board. Officials in Brasilia have said that nomination does not mean support for Ocampo.
A decision on a new leader for the poverty-fighting organization is expected to be announced by the time the World Bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, hold semiannual meetings in Washington on April 20-22.
(Additional reporting by Brian Winter; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by W Simon and Padraic Cassidy)