BY AJIT KUMAR JHA
As Mastercard’s CEO, Ajaypal Singh Banga wrote a note on the company’s website in January 2020. The note explains why he got nominated by President Joe Biden as the World Bank President on February 23, 2023. Banga wrote: “I don’t think you need me to tell you why action on climate change is required. Hectares of forests are on fire at any given time. Trillions of tons of glacial ice are melting. Temperatures are rising.” Later in 2020, Banga launched Mastercard’s pledge to plant 100 million trees.
The environmentally sensitive Banga is the perfect candidate to head the World Bank, given that this multi-lateral lender is ready to transition from its financial role to climate change advocacy.
The World Bank has faced severe criticism from poorer nations seeking help in paying for the ravages of climate change. Wealthier countries (OECD nations) have recently at the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP27) and during the G20 summit in Bali pushed the Bank to offer more concessional finance for climate projects, and engage in the mobilisation of private finance for a cleaner global environment.
Banga was born on November 10, 1959, in the Khadki cantonment of Pune to a Saini Sikh family. His father, Harbhajan Singh Banga, was a retired army lieutenant-general. Educated in various schools across the country, he graduated in economics from St Stephen’s College, Delhi and later IIM Ahmedabad. He worked for Nestlé and then launched fast food franchises, including Pizza Hut and KFC. In 1996, he joined Citigroup, eventually becoming chief executive of its Asia-Pacific business, before joining Mastercard in 2009. He became CEO a year later. At Mastercard, he tripled revenues, increased net income six-fold and grew market capitalisation from under $30 bn to more than $300 bn. He served as vice-chair of General Atlantic, a US private equity group, and advised its climate-focused fund.
(Ajit Kumar Jha, Editor-in-Chief of Pravasi Indians, was trained at JNU, Oxford and UCLA. He was Editor, Research with India Today and Outlook and Editor of the Qatar Tribune and Oman Tribune, and Resident Editor of The Times of India, The Indian Express and Hindustan Times.)