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World Bank taps French economist for private-sector arm

Philippe Le Houerou, World Bank Vice-President for Europe and Central Asia, speaks during a press briefing on the economic status of Europe and Central Asia on Sept 23, 2011 in Washington, DC.

[WASHINGTON] The World Bank named Philippe Le Houerou, a French economist and former employee, to head its International Finance Corp private-sector lending arm on Wednesday.

Currently vice-president for policy and partnerships at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Mr Le Houerou will be the executive vice-president and chief executive of the IFC.

Last Friday World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced unexpectedly that current IFC chief Jin-Yong Cai, a Chinese banker, was stepping down at the end of the year.

The IFC lends to companies to support private-sector projects in developing countries, including factories, farms, infrastructure and clean energy.

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"There's no doubt in my mind that IFC's work with the private sector is critically important to create jobs, to fight climate change, and to tackle the key global challenges of our times," Mr Le Houerou said in a statement.

Mr Le Houerou is returning to the World Bank, where his last role in a "long and successful career" there was as vice-president for the South Asia Region until 2014, the Bank said.

"Few professionals have his breadth of geographic experience and knowledge of regional markets," said Mr Kim in the statement.

It did not indicate when Mr Le Houerou would take the helm of the IFC.

In recent years, the IFC has been accused by activist groups of supporting development projects that have violated the rights of local populations.

While welcoming Mr Le Houerou's appointment, Oxfam International noted that though the IFC's social and environmental standards had been strengthened recently, "they're still being ignored with troubling frequency.

" "Le Houerou's success will ultimately be judged on whether or not he drives change forward and takes decisive actions needed to prevent the IFC's past failures from happening again," said Nicolas Mombrial, head of Oxfam's Washington office, in a statement.