Japan continues to hold the number two spot with a 6.84 per cent stake.

"We need to consign outdated concepts like 'Third World' to history"

Robert Zoellick, 
World Bank president

Speaking to reporters on Sunday Robert Zoellick, the World Bank's president, said member nations recognised that the shift in voting power was "crucial for the bank's legitimacy."

"It recognises that we need to consign outdated concepts like 'Third World' to history," he said.

"Today the world is moving toward a new, fast evolving multipolar economy."

Speaking after a meeting of the bank's policy-setting Development Committee, Zoellick said emerging economies had become critical sources of demand fuelling the world's recovery from recession, and over time "can become multiple poles of growth".

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," he said.

Reflecting reality

EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the changes relfected a shift in the balance of power in the global economy. 

Zoellick said emerging economies had become vital for the global economic recovery [AFP]

"It is just reflecting reality, and I believe multinational institutions should reflect realities because otherwise they become outdated," he told the Reuters news agency.

Timothy Geithner, the US treasury secretary, said the new system would give emerging economies more influence in the bank's decision-making process.

"The new formula will better reflect the weight of the developing and transition countries in the global economy, while protecting the voice of the smallest and poorest countries," he said in a statement.

He added said that the US decided not to increase its share of voting rights in the new system in recognition of the importance of developing economies.

"Because we believe this overall outcome merits our strong endorsement, the United States agreed not to take up its full shareholding in this new arrangement," he said in a statement.

Japan will shoulder the greatest reduction in voting rights "in order to contribute to realising a shift of the voting share to the developing and transition countries," Tokyo's finance ministry said on Sunday.

Dilution

However Pravin Gordhan, South Africa's finance minister, expressed disappointment in the outcome.

"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," he said, adding that South Africa was looking for "more robust outcomes in future".

In another development, the World Bank agreed to the institution's capital by $3.5bn, the first increase in more than two decades, to make up for the heavy lending by the bank during the financial crisis.

The increase will fund disaster relief and emergency programmes in the world's poorest countries and was agreed after the World Bank had made "strong and compelling case" for the extra money, Geithner said.

US contributions to the bank will need to be approved by Congress before they are finalised.