Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (born 13 June 1954) is a Nigerian economist best known for her two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria and for her work at the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007 – July 2011). She briefly held the position of Foreign Minister of Nigeria in 2006. She is now Senior Advisor at Lazard.
In 2007, Okonjo-Iweala was considered as a possible replacement for former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. Subsequently, in 2012, she became one of three candidates in the race to replace World Bank President Robert Zoellick at the end of his term of office in June 2012. On 16 April 2012 it was announced that she had been unsuccessful in her bid for the World Bank presidency, having lost to the US nominee, Jim Yong Kim. This outcome had been widely anticipated. However, this was the first contested election for World Bank president after the demise in 2010 of the Gentlemen’s agreement that the US would appoint the World Bank president and Europe would appoint the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
In 2011, Okonjo-Iweala was reappointed as Minister of Finance with the expanded portfolio of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy by President Goodluck Jonathan. She took a lot of heat, more-so than any other government official for the unpopular fuel subsidy removal policy by the Nigerian government which led to Occupy Nigeria protests in January 2012.
During her confirmation as a Minister, she stressed the need to reduce the country’s recurrent expenditure which is presently 74% of the National Budget and embark on capital projects which could improve the 14% unemployment rate in the country. In her role as the Coordinating Minister For the Economy and Minister of Finance, she has extensive influence/exercise to shape the direction of the Jonathan economic team and the transformation agenda. This indubitably makes Okonjo-Iweala responsible for the success or failure of Mr. Jonathan’s economic policies. Unfortunately, it is widely believed that things are not going well with Nigeria’s economy. The country’s foreign reserves instead of increasing is actually grossly below what Jonathan’s administration inherited despite an average oil price of between $105 – $120 during this period. President Olusegun Obasanjo met about $5 billion in foreign reserves, and the average monthly oil price for the 72 months he was in office was $38, he left $43 billion in foreign reserves after paying $12 billion to write off Nigeria’s external debt. In an article a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and a world class economist, said that by his calculation, if the economy had been properly managed, the nation’s foreign reserves, which now stand at about $30 billion, should have been between $102 and $118 billion and the exchange rate around N112 before the fall in oil prices towards the end of 2014. He said even with the fall in oil price, objectively, the reserves should be around $90 billion and exchange rate, not higher than N125 per US dollar.In September 2015, she joins Lazard as Senior Advisor
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