WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White House adviser Lawrence Summers, diplomat Susan Rice and PepsiCo Inc CEO Indra Nooyi are on a “short list” of possible U.S. candidates to head the World Bank, a person with knowledge of the Obama administration’s thinking said on Wednesday.
The source and a second person familiar with the administration’s thinking said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry was also on the list, although a Kerry spokeswoman said he had not been contacted and was not interested.
The World Bank, whose mission is to fight global poverty, launched a search for its next chief after Robert Zoellick said he would step down when his term as president ended in June.
The United States has held the post since the development institution was established after World War Two, while Europe has always picked the head of the International Monetary Fund.
Rising emerging economies have increasingly pushed to have more say in the two premier global financial institutions.
Late last month, leading emerging nations China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa - the so-called BRICS - called for a selection process based on merit and not nationality. Senior BRICS officials said emerging economies were discussing names of possible candidates from developing countries, although none have surfaced so far.
The World Bank’s 25-member board, which represents all of the institution’s 187 member nations, has given countries until March 23 to put names forward. It has said it will make a final decision within a month after that.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon are leading the search for the Obama administration. Spokesmen for both the White House and the Treasury have declined to comment on potential candidates.
Summers served as director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council until the end of 2010 and led the U.S. Treasury at the tail end of President Bill Clinton’s presidency. He has not responded to requests for comment.
Sources within the World Bank and the Obama administration said that while Summers has excellent credentials, he also has political baggage.
While president of Harvard University, he created a firestorm by suggesting women may have a lower aptitude for science and engineering. He is also remembered for a memo he wrote in 1991 when he was the World Bank’s top economist that laid out the economic logic of dumping toxic waste in developing countries.
By selecting Summers, Obama “would have to use political capital” with his liberal base and women’s groups, the source with knowledge of the administration’s thinking said.
A number of administration and World Bank sources said Rice, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was a top choice for the job. Her spokesman at the U.N. declined to comment.
Rice, who was assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Clinton administration, has also surfaced as a possible candidate to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Kerry’s name has also been floated as a possible Clinton successor, while Clinton herself has been viewed as a possible World Bank candidate. Clinton, who plans to step down at the end of Obama’s current term, has said she is not interested in the World Bank job.
Nooyi, the Indian-born chief executive of PepsiCo, has been under pressure from investors for a stagnating stock price. She recently laid out a plan to turn around the company’s North American soft drink business and took responsibility for management missteps. PepsiCo spokesman Peter Land declined to comment on whether she would be interested in the World Bank job.
If Obama chose a woman, he would be breaking the mold for a job that has always been held by a white male, a move that could garner support from developing nations.
Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Lou Charbonneau, Martinne Geller and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Paul Simao