US nominates Jim Kim for World Bank

March 23, 2012 2:46 pm

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The US has nominated health policy expert Jim Yong Kim as next president of the World Bank in a surprise move that may outflank developing countries seeking an open competition for the job. Mr Kim is a doctor, anthropologist and former head of the HIV/AIDS department of the World Health Organisation. Since 2009, he has been president of Dartmouth College, part of the Ivy League of US universities.

The nomination of an Asian-American with strong development credentials should win enough support to overcome complaints about the job always going to a US citizen and ensure that Mr Kim wins out.
But there were doubts amongst economists who fear that Mr Kim may slant the Bank towards traditional development work on health and education rather than growth and new challenges such as climate change.

“Jim has spent more than two decades working to improve conditions in developing countries around the world,” said Barack Obama, the US president. “The World Bank is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty and raise standards of living around the globe, and Jim’s personal experience and years of service make him an ideal candidate for this job.”

Developing countries have grown impatient with the tradition that a European always heads the International Monetary Fund and an American leads the World Bank. They have put foward two strong contenders of their own: the Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the former finance minister of Colombia, José Antonio Ocampo.

Mr Kim does not have the top-level financial experience of a candidate such as Ms Okonjo-Iweala, who is in her second term as finance minister, and was previously managing director of the World Bank.
Between them, however, the US and Europe control around half of the votes so as long as Mr Kim is perceived as a legitimate choice he is likely to be the next president.

“I think this is great news,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the liberal Centre for Economic and Policy Research, who campaigned for a more open selection process. “It’s the first time in 68 years that we have a World Bank president who is qualified for the job instead of a political crony.” The economist Jeffrey Sachs, who campaigned for the World Bank job and had the support of some smaller developing countries, withdrew and endorsed Mr Kim who he called a superb nominee. “I congratulate the administration for nominating a world-class development leader for this position,” said Mr Sachs. “I support his nomination 100 percent.”

Uri Dadush, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and a former senior official at the World Bank, said that Mr Kim had the essential qualities of management experience and a “total passion for development”. But he noted that growth is probably the most important part of development and that involves economic policy. “That world is going to be completely alien to Dr Kim,” said Mr Dadush.