The man nominated by President Carter to head the World Bank says it is in America's self-interest to help less fortunate countries. And he agrees with retiring World Bank President Robert S. McNamara that the United States has fallen behind in its support of the bank.
Alden W. Clausen, chief executive officer of the Bank of America, is a Republican who support Ronald Reagan's presidential candidacy. He has not hesitated to criticize the Carter administration for its economic policies.
But in running the largest commercial bank in the US (the Bank of America is second only to the Banque Nationale de Paris in world status), Mr. Clausen has gained the experience and perspective necessary to oversee the apolitical management of $12 billion in annual developmental loans
Mr. McNamara will retire next July after 12 years as head of the World Bank. Clausen's election by the bank's board of executive directors to succeed McNamara could come as soon as next month. Since voting is weighted by capital contribution and the US and 21 percent of the vote, Clausen's election seems assured. World Bank presidents, elected for five-year terms, traditionally have been Americans.
Although the US is the top World Bank supporter, as a portion of gross national product (GNP) its contributions have dropped by one-third since 1978. Compared with the average of all industrial countries, it giving (as a percentage of GNP) is only slightly more than half.
"For many years, the United States, it seems, has responded to the calls for capital and replenishments from the international financial institutions a bit more reluctantly each time," Clausen told the Monitor. "It would seem to me that the strongest nation in the world should be a little farther advanced in the queue."
McNamara, in his June retirement announcement, included an emotional plea for those millions around the world leading lives "so limited by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease, high infant mortality, and low life expectancy as to be beneath any rational definition of human decency."
Clausen agrees that "the problems are immense and complicated," likely to become "very critical" in the next few years because of worldwide inflation and rising energy costs that particularly affect less-developed countries.
But he sounds a distinctly Republican note when he emphasizes that government spending and economic mismanagement are the main culprits, and that future markets for American exports should be kept in mind when developmental assistance is debated.
Recalling the Marshall Plan for post-World War II reconstruction aid, Clausen said: "It was in our vested interest to give grants to other countries of the world so that we could have stronger markets for our wares and a higher standard of living for people in the United States. I don't think that cycle is over."
Clausen says Congress must be assigned "a pretty low score" for letting US World Bank contributions slip. But he also faults recent administrations -- including the Carter White House -- for presiding over increased government spending while boosting the money supply to finance the federal deficit.
It seems obvious that experience and stature in the world banking community -- not political considerations -- were behind the Clausen nomination to head the World Bank on the eve of the presidential election. Mr. Reagan was advised of, and approved, the nomination before it was made public.
Clausen was trained as a lawyer but joined the Bank of America shortly after graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1949. He rose to head the San Francisco-based, $120 billion operation 10 years ago and is a member of several important trade, economic, and monetary organizations.
Established in 1945, the World Bank is composed of 135 member nations. It makes low- and no-interest loans to developing countries, mostly for agriculture and rural development.