China gains clout in World Bank vote shift

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China overtook large  European nations in a shift in voting power at the World Bank  yesterday that was designed to give emerging economies greater  influence in the global development institution.

The agreement increases the voting shares of some emerging  and developing countries by 3.13 per cent to a total 47 per cent  stake. It puts China’s share behind that of the United States  and Japan, but above Germany, Britain and France.

While the outcome recognizes Beijing’s growing global  economic clout, South Africa said the voting shares of many  developing countries, including its own, were diluted in the  shift.

“China’s share has increased because of its growth in the  world economy,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick told a  news conference at the end of weekend meetings of the World  Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The US maintained its majority stake of 16 per cent but  Japan said it had accepted a reduction in its voting share to  6.84 per cent. China’s share will rise to 4.42 per cent from 2.77  per cent — reflecting its status as the world’s third-largest  economy.

The changes in voting shares will also contribute $1.6  billion in new resources to the poverty-fighting institution.

In addition, World Bank’s 186 member countries agreed to a  general capital increase of $3.5 billion for the Bank — the  first in more than 20 years — to make up for the heavy lending  by the Bank during the financial crisis.

“It is just reflecting reality, and I believe multinational  institutions should reflect realities because otherwise they  become outdated,” EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs  told Reuters.

But tensions bubbled to the surface after months of tough  negotiations, in which some countries were reluctant to give up  voting shares and others fought to hang on to theirs.

Russia’s Alexei Kudrin told reporters the agreement on  giving developing countries a greater stake reflected consensus  among member countries.

“Russia managed to keep its quota at 2.77 per cent but  others had to bring their share down,” he said. “We understand  this is not easy for those countries, but again, that was the  consensus: developing countries should have a bigger voice.”

Zoellick said a new formula for calculating voting power  was “far from a perfect process but it was one that allowed us  to bring 186 shareholders together because there are always  sensitivities.”

“While all countries agreed they wanted to make this shift,  those who had to give up shares obviously would have preferred  not to have done so,” Zoellick added.

He said members agreed that for the next review in 2015  they would develop a new methodology to seek a more balanced  voting system.

But South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan expressed  disappointment in the outcome and said he considered this a  “starting point”.

“We are disappointed that the process has resulted in  dilution of the voting power of some Sub-Saharan African  countries, in spite of the collective acknowledgment of the  need to protect them,” Gordhan said. “We strongly believe that  more should have been done to prevent such dilutions.”

“We consider the progress made to date as a starting point  for more robust outcomes in future,” Gordhan added.

While Africa’s stakes have risen since voice reforms began  in 2008, and its representation on the World Bank board  increased to three from two, voting shares of South Africa and  Nigeria have declined.

Brazilian Finance Minster Guido Mantega said developing  countries were still significantly under-represented based on  their weight and role in the world economy.

“Given the rapid changes in the economic landscape, a  dynamic formula for shareholding should deliver at least parity  in 2015, moving towards equitable voting power,” he said.

Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution,  said the modest shift of 3 per cent was primarily symbolic.

“There is a long slog ahead before emerging economies are  given a level of representation at the international financial  institutions that corresponds to their increasing prominence in  the world economy,” Prasad said.

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