By Arul Louis
New York, Indian-American business leader Indra Nooyi, who headed the multinational PepsiCo, is under consideration for heading the World Bank, according to multiple media reports.
If she is nominated by US President Donald Trump to be the Bank’s president, she will succeed Jim Yong Kim, a Korean immigrant who unexpectedly announced at the beginning of the year that he is quitting.
By tradition, the US president names the head of the global financial institution and the nomination is rubber-stamped by the executive directors.
Nominating Nooyi, an immigrant woman from a developing country, could head off the mounting challenges to the US role in determining the Bank’s presidency.
She would also fit the bill for Trump’s preference for the private sector and for making international organisations fiscally more efficient.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who is an admirer of Nooyi and considers her as a mentor is said to be backing her for the Bank job, according to the media reports quoting anonymous administration sources.
Nooyi stepped down as chairwoman of the PepsiCo last August after leading the international soft drinks, food and snacks giant for 12 years.
When Nooyi was leaving Pepsico, Ivanka Trump called her an inspiration and a mentor and gushed, “I am deeply grateful for your friendship. Thank you for your passionate engagement on issues that benefit the people of this country, and beyond.”
If Nooyi becomes the Bank’s president, the four top jobs in international financial policy-making would be held by women, two of them by women of Indian descent.
This month Gita Gopinath became the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF), which is headed by Managing Director Christine Lagarde. The Bank’s chief economist is Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg.
Another Indian-American, Nikki Haley, who stepped down as the US Permanent Representative to the UN at the end of last year, is also on the list of candidates under consideration, according to The Financial Times.
The former South Carolina governor was the first Indian-American to be on the US federal cabinet and she pushed the UN to cut its budget and enhance efficiency.
If Nooyi, who headed a multinational with an annual revenue of $63.5 billion and assets of $79.8 billion, gets Trump’s nod, it will mark an ideological turnaround from former President Barack Obama’s orientation.
Departing from the tradition of economists or politicians heading the Bank, Obama appointed Kim, a medical doctor and academic, to reinforce the mission of fighting poverty and promoting what was considered a more holistic development.
But Kim also advocated greater cooperation with the private sector for financing development, which Nooyi would strengthen if she gets the job.
During her tenure PepsiCo, Nooyi led its reorganisation, shedding some parts of the conglomerate.
The formal process of selecting the nominee to head the Bank is being overseen by a panel made up of Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the president’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Although Trump has been critical of international organisations and called for curtailing their budgets, he had – at least openly – a close rleation with Kim and backed increasing the Bank’s capital by $13 billion.
Nooyi had a rocky start in relating to Trump: after his election she said that her employees were in “mourning.’
She, however, drew close to Trump as he began pushing business-friendly policies and firmer ties to business leaders.
Nooyi served on his business advisory council and has had dinners with him and other business leaders at his golf club in New Jersey.
(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)