World Bank’s New Chief Calls on Staff to ‘Double Down’ on Development, Climate Efforts

– The World Bank’s new president Ajay Banga on Friday asked the lender’s 16,000 staff to “double down” on development and climate efforts as he seeks to accelerate the bank’s evolution to tackle the most pressing global problems.

On his first day in the job, the former Mastercard CEO told staff in a memo that he would seek to recruit each of them to work towards his vision “to create a world free from poverty on a livable planet.”

“Making good on our ambition will require us to evolve to maximize resources and write a new playbook, to think creatively, take informed risks and forge new partnerships with civil society and multilateral institutions,” Banga wrote.

Banga on Thursday met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who urged him to “get the most out of the bank’s balance sheet and mobilize more private capital for climate finance and global crises and to address other global problems”, the Treasury said.

Yellen last year began pressing the World Bank and other multilateral lenders to revamp their business models and dramatically scale up lending resources to address climate change, pandemics, food security and other global crises.

This would move the development lenders beyond the country-specific project loans they have pursued for decades, though she has demanded they maintain their core mission to reduce poverty.

In his memo, which incorporated his statement to the World Bank Executive Board during an April 1 job interview, Banga said annual investments of trillions of dollars were needed to arrest the forces of climate change and fragility, while building up human capital and fighting inequality in health, education, and financial access.

“We are at a critical moment in the arc of humanity and the planet. The World Bank Group is being asked to lead the way, to double down on development and climate efforts and to deliver even more impact and results,” he said.

He added this would require “all shoulders to the wheel,” and all of the World Bank’s divisions working together to deliver solutions needed by the world.

Banga, 63, was elected to a five-year term as World Bank president by the lender’s board of governors in May. Nominated by U.S. President Joe Biden, the Indian-born finance and development expert was the sole contender for the job.

The U.S., the World Bank’s largest shareholder, has traditionally chosen an American to run the institution, while Europe has chosen the head of the International Monetary Fund. Banga, a U.S. citizen since 2007, started his new role on Friday.

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