World Bank picks Kim as leader

2012-04-17 09:32

The World Bank has named US nominee Jim Yong Kim as its next president after a process in which a US nominee to lead the development lender was challenged for the first time by candidates from emerging economies.

Kim, a physician who co-founded the non-governmental organisation Partners in Health and helped pioneer public health strategies against tuberculosis and Aids, currently serves as president of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the US.

The board interviewed three finalists last week – Kim, Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia and Nigeria Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – to take the helm when World Bank president Robert Zoellick leaves office on June 30.

Ocampo had withdrawn his candidacy on Friday, citing a lack of support from his own government.

The non-governmental aid agency Oxfam praised Kim but condemned the “sham process” that led to his appointment, saying it had damaged the World Bank’s credibility.

“Dr Kim is an excellent choice for World Bank president and a true development hero, but we’ll never know if he was the best candidate for the job because there was no true and fair competition,” said Elizabeth Stuart, chief of Oxfam’s Washington office.

Since the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were established in 1944, a European has always headed the crisis-lending IMF while its sister development agency has been led exclusively by Americans.

Developing nations have pushed in recent years for a greater say in the international finance system and have sought to have one of their own lead at least one of the two Washington-based institutions.

The processes that led to the appointments of Kim at the World Bank and, last year, French finance minister Christine Lagarde as IMF chief were officially open but still ended with the long-standing US-European consensus.

Kim expressed gratitude to the bank’s member nations for their “broad support”.

Recalling his work in Peru, where he implemented large-scale programmes to treat tuberculosis in the 1980s and 1990s, Kim said that experience taught him “how injustice and indignity may conspire to destroy the lives and hopes of the poor, ... how communities struggle to prosper because of a lack of infrastructure and basic services.”

In his new post, Kim said he would “seek a new alignment of the World Bank Group with a rapidly changing world. Together, with partners old and new, we will foster an institution that responds effectively to the needs of its diverse clients and donors.”

He envisioned a World Bank that “prioritises evidence-based solutions over ideology, amplifies the voices of developing countries and draws on the expertise and experience of the people we serve.”

US President Barack Obama, who nominated Kim last month, said he appreciated the “strong support” for Kim from world leaders during an “open and transparent” selection process.

“I am confident that Dr Kim will be an inclusive leader who will bring to the bank a passion for and deep knowledge of development, a commitment to sustained economic growth and the ability to respond to complex challenges and seize new opportunities,” Obama said.

Zoellick called Kim “an impressive and accomplished individual”. “Jim has seen poverty and vulnerability first-hand through his impressive work in developing countries. His innovations in healthcare have helped to save numerous lives.

“His rigorous, science-based drive for results will be invaluable for the World Bank Group as it modernises to better serve client countries in overcoming poverty.”

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