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Jim Yong Kim Chosen as World Bank President Amid Protests

- Common Dreams staff

The World Bank has named US-supported Jim Yong Kim as its new president this afternoon amid criticism that the United States is continuing its 68-year stranglehold on the position.

Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim has been named the next president of the World Bank (AFP Photo/Pedro Ladeira) Kim's rival in the contest, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, blasted the U.S. domination of the post. "You know this thing is not really being decided on merit," she told reporters. "It is voting with political weight and shares and therefore the United States will get it."

Professor Simon Evenett, a former World Bank official who works at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, said, "There was never really a contest." He added, "The west won't give up its hold over these institutions until they need something from the emerging markets."

In the lead-up to the nomination, Okonjo-Iweala and another candidate, Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, had earned many high-profile endorsements from around the world.

Kim, a physician and the president of Dartmouth College, is co-founder of the NGO Partners in Health and has worked for the World Health Organization (WHO), a background that garnered him praise from Center for Economic and Policy Research co-director Mark Weisbrot. “There’s just no comparison between him and any of the prior World Bank presidents,” said Weisbrot. “The others were political insiders; they spent most of their lives getting rich or becoming politically powerful, or worse. Kim, by contrast, has spent most of his life trying to improve the lives of poor people.”

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The Guardian: Jim Yong Kim secures World Bank job amid criticism of US domination of role

The World Bank named Korean-born doctor Jim Yong Kim as its new president today amid criticism that the role had once more gone to a US-nominated candidate.

The 52-year-old president of Ivy League college Dartmouth beat Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the post, the first time in the World Bank's history that the US candidate has faced a serious challenge. [...]

[I]n recent years the [World Bank and IMF] have faced growing criticism over their US/European duopoly. Ahead of the announcement, Okonjo-Iweala said: "You know this thing is not really being decided on merit."

"It is voting with political weight and shares, and therefore the United States will get it," she told reporters at a briefing on the country's 2012 budget.

A third candidate, Colombia's former finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, pulled out of the race Friday, calling the selection process a "political-oriented exercise".

Okonjo-Iweala said that although she expected her challenge to the US's nomination to fail, the process "will never ever be the same again".

"So we have won a big victory. Who gets to run the World Bank – we have shown we can contest this thing and Africa can produce people capable of running the entire architecture," she said. [...]

Professor Simon Evenett, a former World Bank official who works at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland, said Kim's appointment was inevitable. "The Obama administration would almost certainly have withheld support for Lagarde's appointment to the IMF if European nations had not agreed in advance to support whomever was Washington's candidate for the World Bank," he said.

"There was never really a contest. Some developing countries probably figured this out and put up a strong candidate to embarrass the west, hoping that this will lead to a more open process in the future. Don't bet on that. The west won't give up its hold over these institutions until they need something from the emerging markets."

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Inter Press Service: World Bank Race: Non-US Candidates Rake in Endorsements

WASHINGTON - While the U.S. candidate for World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, still has the inside track, the two non-U.S. candidates, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, have been raking in high-profile endorsements.

In an open letter sent to the Bank's executive board Wednesday, 39 former senior Bank staff endorsed Okonjo-Iweala's candidacy, citing her "deep experience in international and national issues of economic management", which includes four years as the Bank's managing director.

"She would hit the ground running and get things done from the start," the former officials, who included senior vice presidents, vice presidents, and directors, wrote. "In a word, she would be the outstanding World Bank President the times call for."

In another letter released Thursday, more than 100 economists endorsed Ocampo, arguing that his experience leading the ministries of finance, agriculture and planning, as well as stints as the head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the U.N. Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, and as U.N. under-secretary general for economic and social affairs, made him "the most suitable candidate for World Bank President".

The signers included internationally recognized figures, primarily from North America, Latin America, Europe, China, and India, including former Bank officials, ministers of finance and development, and central bank governors, as well as academics.

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Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR): Kim's Selection as World Bank President is a "Rare Historic Event" CEPR Co-Director Says

WASHINGTON - April 16 - The announcement that Jim Yong Kim will be the next president of the World Bank is positive news for people living in poverty or struggling with illness, Center for Economic and Policy Research Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. Kim’s track record at Partners in Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that he has what is needed to take on a tough challenge, Weisbrot added.

Weisbrot called Kim’s appointment a “rare event, historically” and noted that, despite being a U.S. citizen, he was as least as unlikely to take orders from Washington as anyone that might be appointed from another country.

“There’s just no comparison between him and any of the prior World Bank presidents,” said Weisbrot. “The others were political insiders; they spent most of their lives getting rich or becoming politically powerful, or worse. Kim, by contrast, has spent most of his life trying to improve the lives of poor people.”

“He’ll have battles ahead with the Board of Directors, against Washington and its allies, but I would bet he will have some significant accomplishments to show by the end of his term,” said Weisbrot. [...]

Weisbrot added: “The Bank has often tended to prioritize corporate interests, and historically the U.S. has used the Bank to promote its own political and economic agenda. Kim can help limit the damage that the Bank does, and steer some money into positive projects that improve health and education.”

Weisbrot noted that “Kim fought tenaciously at the WHO to get treatment for 3 million people for HIV/AIDS. This is the kind of leadership that will be needed at the Bank.”

This year was the first time in the Bank’s 68-year history that countries besides the U.S. have put forward candidates for the World Bank president. Developing countries nominated two candidates, Jose Antonio Ocampo, and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who competed openly against Kim for the position. Several developing countries broke Washington’s monopoly on the selection process by nominating economist and health expert Jeffrey Sachs at the beginning of March. Sachs withdrew following the announcement of Kim’s nomination, throwing his support behind Kim.

“This could be the last time the U.S. gets to pick the World Bank president,” Weisbrot said. “But it is truly good fortune that Kim was the choice this time.”

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