• Road to riches

    Taxpayers keep funding structures with big plans but who knows what efficacy, says Mandi Smallhorne.

  • Don't fall for Ponzi scams

    An expert unpacks the tell-tale signs to watch out for.

  • Inside Labour

    A smokescreen of misleading rhetoric won't make SA's problems go away, says Terry Bell.

See More

World Bank contest

Apr 12 2012 07:33 *Rob Cox

Related Articles

Race for World Bank job

'World Bank must mirror global shift'

World Bank race heats up as US makes pick

Africans take on US over World Bank post

Africa punts Nigerian for World Bank job

Japan declares support for World Bank pick


IF THE competition to become the World Bank's next president were a normal process, Jim Yong Kim wouldn't stand a chance.

The Dartmouth College president lacks two of the traditional qualifications for running an international lending body: financial savvy and diplomatic experience. But the race to lead the World Bank is everything but ordinary – particularly this time.

Americans have always helmed the bank, which doled out some $57bn in loans and grants to poor and middle-income countries last year alone. Except for a congressman (Barber Conable) and a Ford Motor boss (Robert McNamara), all 11 chiefs hailed from Wall Street firms like Lazard Freres, First Boston and Chase Bank.

Even outgoing president Robert Zoellick spent some time on the payroll of Goldman Sachs.

Not so the Korean-born physician Kim. At 52, he has spent the past three years in bucolic Hanover, New Hampshire, where his biggest diplomatic challenge appears to have been quelling -with mixed success, according to a recent Rolling Stone exposé -a fondness among its fraternities for painting their pledges in puke and even forcing them to eat it in omelettes.

But there's logic to the Obama administration's choice for the job.

Though it was decreed at the 1944 Bretton Woods confab that the United States would name the bank's president, it has 186 other stakeholders. And for the first time ever, they're making their voices heard.

When the World Bank board meets this week in Washington, it will have two other candidates to interview: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and José Antonio Ocampo, the former finance ministers of Nigeria and Colombia, respectively.

In another contest, their backgrounds would give them an edge. But here's why Kim may be an inspired choice: if poverty's insidious bedfellow is disease, it knows few enemies like Kim. He has a superhero's resume of fighting the dark forces of illness.

Kim was a co-founder of Partners in Health, which is seeking to eradicate infectious diseases like tuberculosis in the poorest nations on the planet. He chaired the department of global hHealth and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. In 2003, he moved to the World Health Organisation and directed its efforts in fighting HIV and Aids.

True, none of this has anything to do with making loans. But that's sort of the point. Kim's career has focused on the outcomes of development rather than the process. At a moment when American control of the bank is being challenged by the primary recipients of its largesse, that's a critical distinction.

Kim may not gain the consensus of all 25 World Bank directors when he sits down with them on Wednesday. Bric nations are keen to flex their influence – last month in New Delhi they even discussed creating their own version of a World Bank.

But putting a development specialist in charge for the first time would certainly beat replicating past precedent. Imagine President Obama naming Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein to lead a global effort to eliminate poverty.

 - Reuters

* This column appears in the April 9 issue of Newsweek. Rob Cox is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.



Read Fin24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Company Snapshot

We're talking about:


Johannesburg has been selected to host the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in 2017. "[The congress] will ensure that small business development remains firmly on the national agenda and the radar screen of all stakeholders, the Small Business Development minister said.

Money Clinic

Money Clinic
Do you have a question about your finances? We'll get an expert opinion.
Click here...

Voting Booth

People who fall victim to Ponzi scams are:

Previous results · Suggest a vote