Ajay Banga takes over as World Bank president at 'critical' moment

Executive takes up role after David Malpass stepped down early following contentious climate remarks

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen with incoming World Bank president Ajay Banga at the Treasury Department in Washington. Reuters
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Indian-American business executive Ajay Banga on Friday assumed charge as the World Bank's new president.

Mr Banga, 63, will be the first Indian American to lead the organisation.

“We are at a critical moment in the arc of humanity and the planet,” Mr Banga wrote on Friday morning in an email to staff obtained by AFP, calling on the bank to “evolve” to meet the challenges it now faces.

Selected as the World Bank's new president last month for a five-year term, Mr Banga will take office as the organisation undergoes an evolution with a greater focus on climate change and as it continues its core focus of reducing global poverty.

He was nominated for the office by US President Joe Biden in late February, and was the only contender to replace departing World Bank chief David Malpass, who stepped down early from his five-year term amid questions about his stance on climate change.

“The scale and diversity of our challenges – poverty and development, pandemics, climate change, conflict and fragility – are deeply intertwined and threaten our collective ambitions, as decades worth of hard-won progress erode,” Mr Banga said in his email.

“The World Bank's challenge is clear: It must pursue both climate adaptation and mitigation, it must reach out to lower-income countries without turning its back on middle-income countries, it must think globally but recognise national and regional needs, it must embrace risk but do so prudently.

“Change is appropriate for the World Bank. It isn't a symptom of failure or drift or irrelevance, it is a symptom of opportunity, life and importance.”

Born in Pune, India, Mr Banga received his bachelor's degree in economics from Delhi University, and is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.

Mr Banga became a US citizen in 2007 and most recently served as vice chairman of General Atlantic, a private equity company.

He also served as co-chair of the Partnership for Central America, where he worked closely with US Vice President Kamala Harris.

A former chief executive of Mastercard, he retired in December 2021 after 12 years at the company.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 12:09 PM