Jim Yong Kim has been chosen to be president of the World Bank, becoming the first physician and Asian-American to head the lender after emerging markets failed to rally around a challenger to the US monopoly on the job.
The World Bank board of directors said yesterday it chose Dartmouth College president Kim to succeed Robert Zoellick, whose term ends on June 30. A specialist in HIV/Aids with a PhD in anthropology, Kim, 52, faced rival bids from Nigeria and Colombia.
The decision dashed Africa’s hopes that highly respected Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala could not only champion the developing world’s needs but raise Africa’s profile on a key world stage.
The candidacies “enriched the discussion of the role of the president and of the World Bank Group’s future direction”, the board said. “The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high calibre of the candidates.”
Kim, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, breaks the mould of World Bank presidents, who have been drawn from government and finance. Kim, who was born in South Korea and grew up in the US, has pledged to be a bridge between developed and advanced economies at the institution, which committed $57 billion (R454bn) last year on everything from building roads to taking stakes in companies in emerging economies.
Kim’s expertise on health and development issues, as well as his experience at Dartmouth, “puts him in a prime position to initiate a much-needed reorientation of the World Bank’s role in global development”, said Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former official at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Russia and Mexico threw their support behind Kim, shunning the Nigerian finance minister. Former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo withdrew from the race last week and endorsed Okonjo-Iweala.
The failure of competitors to unite behind a candidate is reminiscent of the contest to head the IMF last year, when Mexican central bank governor Agustin Carstens lost to then- French finance minister Christine Lagarde. The IMF has always been headed by a European.
The bank’s approval of Kim “reflects how global governance continues to lag behind changing economic realities”, Prasad said. “Emerging-market economies are increasingly dominant in global trade, finance and output, but the advanced economies continue to maintain their positions of privilege at major international financial institutions.”
South Africa had nominated Okonjo-Iweala and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan criticised the bank’s selection process, saying it “falls short” for not being transparent or merit based.
Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo in Canada, said Kim “will need to better engage China and” other countries such as India, Russia and Brazil “to contribute more funding through the bank as opposed to bilateral channels”. – Bloomberg