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Surprise US candidate to head World Bank

Published time: March 23, 2012 16:04
Edited time: March 23, 2012 20:04
Jim Yong Kim (AFP Photo)

Jim Yong Kim (AFP Photo)

Under strong pressure from developing nations the President Obama has nominated as Korean-born US academic Jim Yong Kim as the next head of the World Bank.

Jim Yong Kim is President of Dartmouth College and a global health expert. He was born in South Korea, which makes him a surprise choice. The plight of the poor is something he knows well as he worked in a numerous developing countries on projects providing medicine for diseases such as tuberculosis.

There has been much speculation on who will get the job, as the deadline got closer and closer.

The names of Senator John Kerry, and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers were being bandied about, along with America’s Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.

A day before the expiry of the deadline there was already a serious line-up for the job from the non-US countries.

The emerging and developing countries have been pushing to have more say at the World Bank and have said the decision on the top job should be merit-based. This year three African countries – Angola, Nigeria and South Africa – have put forward Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian Finance Minister. Up until Thursday there were rumours former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo would be nominated for the job. The impressive credentials of both Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala put pressure on the White House to come up with a candidate of equivalent standing, promising a truly contested election for the first time since the founding of the World Bank.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (AFP Photo / Pius Utomi Ekpei)
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (AFP Photo / Pius Utomi Ekpei)

US economist Jeffrey Sachs was formally nominated by Bhutan and a cluster of other developing countries, including East Timor, Haiti, Kenya, Namibia and Malaysia. He also picked up support from Chile and Guatemala on Monday. Known in the developing world as a man fighting poverty, Professor Sachs argued the Bank should be led by a development expert. He also said with his self-proclaimed candidacy he aimed to challenge what he sees as a history of political appointments by the White House – as he admits to lack the support from the Obama administration.

Jeffrey Sachs (AFP Photo / John Thys)
Jeffrey Sachs (AFP Photo / John Thys)

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created in 1944 – to regulate trade between nations after the Second World War. Traditionally the IMF has been led by a European, and the World Bank by an American, since the United States is the bank’s largest donor.

In recent years the World Bank has been mired in controversy. In 2007, Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign after breaking the organisation’s rules. He admitted helping his girlfriend win a promotion and massive pay rise when she moved from the World Bank to a job at the US State Department.The scandal plunged the World Bank into the worst crisis in its history. Wolfowitz, the former US Deputy Defense Secretary was a controversial World Bank head because of his role as one of the architects of the Iraq War always said he acted ethically and in good faith.

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