The battle between the developed and the developing world has now manifested itself into a fight for the control of the Bretton Woods twins - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The representatives of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), who met on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Mexico City, were of the opinion that the top World Bank job should be open to all countries. "Candidates should be based on merit and not nationality," Brazilian finance minister Guido Mantega told reporters in Mexico.
The BRICS nations
may also field their candidate for the post of World Bank president to make the larger point that merit and not nationality should be the criterion for selection.
Countries have until March 23 to submit names for the top post and a decision is likely by the April meetings of the World Bank and IMF. Americans have held the top job since the World Bank
was set up at the end of the Second World War, but the unwritten rule has in recent years faced more resistance, along with the tradition that a European heads the IMF
, as emerging economies gain more economic clout.
"It is time we break the traditions of the US and Europe sharing the two seats, and among all of us we must try harder this time to find some consensus," Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, said.
Another BRICS official confirmed that the group will discuss the possibility of putting up their own candidate to challenge whoever the US government nominates. "Certainly it is a discussion we will have," he said.
Robert Zoellick, the current World Bank president, plans to step down at the end of June after deciding against seeking a second five-year term. The US has said it will nominate a replacement candidate but has not yet said who it will be.
Possible candidates are thought to include former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, the current secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations. The State Department has said Clinton will not be taking the job.
The World Bank is the leading provider of development aid to poorer countries and its president is one of the world's top policymakers. "They can put forward their candidate," Gordhan said, referring to the US.
"But rather than it becoming a destructive exercise, it should be a constructive process so that we attempt to build consensus on who the candidate should be. It is idealistic but let's give it a shot."
Although Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is not attending the G-20 ministerial meeting because of his preoccupation with the national budget at home, India was represented by R. Gopalan, secretary financial services.
India had taken a similar position at the time of selection of the IMF managing director. Earlier this week, the Obama administration had asserted that it would have an American at the helm of affairs and there is no question of anyone else occupying it - as the developing countries want. "With regard to the senior job at the World Bank, we fully expect that we will have an extremely strong American candidate," state department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had said.