David Malpass, the embattled President of the World Bank, has announced his intention to resign in June, nearly a year before his term is due to expire. His presidency, which began in controversy, has been marked by criticism over his lack of support for multilateralism and doubts about his commitment to addressing climate change. However, Malpass’s tenure has also seen the World Bank stabilize and expand its lending operations.
Differences between Malpass and the bank’s leading shareholders, including the United States, are thought to have contributed to his early departure. In particular, the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, has called for more rapid reforms to the bank’s operations, including an increased focus on climate change and greater disbursement of funds. The resignation of David Malpass will provide an opportunity for a new leader with a fresh five-year term and strong backing from member countries.
David Malpass and the Critics
Critics of Malpass have celebrated his exit, calling for reforms that prioritize the climate crisis. The former US Vice President, Al Gore, has called for the World Bank to focus on climate change and make it the center of its work. Malpass’s skepticism about the link between burning fossil fuels and global warming had previously raised concerns about his suitability for the role.
Despite these criticisms, the tenure of David Malpass saw the World Bank’s commitments double to $115bn in 2022, compared to 2019 when he took over. This expansion reflected the bank’s role in supporting poor countries through the Covid-induced recession and energy and food crises. Notably, the bank also doubled its climate finance to nearly $32bn last year.
According to The Economist, the successors of David Malpass will need to be mindful of the impact of their words on public perception. Possible candidates for the role include Samantha Power, who runs the American agency for international development (USAID), and Raj Shah, a former head of USAID. Whoever takes over from Malpass will need to continue the bank’s progress while also addressing concerns about its operations and its commitment to tackling the climate crisis.