Global Policy Forum

Obama Administration’s Nomination of Jim Yong Kim for World Bank President is a Victory for Reform

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In the past, the nomination and election of the World Bank’s President has been largely influenced and dominated by the US. However, CEPR Co-director Mark Weisbrot argues that this election process is undergoing meaningful changes. The nomination of Jeffrey Sachs opened the doors for the nomination of candidates other than “a [US] political insider or a banker.”  The nomination of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala by several African countries, for instance, represents an unprecedented challenge to the US government’s traditional domination. Although these developments ought to be welcomed, the Bank’s process is still deeply flawed and the majority of the world’s countries are not yet involved.  

By Mark Weisbrot

March 23, 2012

The Obama administration’s announcement that it will nominate health expert and Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim for World Bank president represents a historic milestone in the institution’s history, with the U.S. nominating, for the first time, a qualified candidate, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today.

“This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he’ll be the first qualified president in 68 years,” Weisbrot said.  “Kim’s nomination is a victory for all the people, organizations, and governments that stood up to the Obama administration and demanded an open, merit-based process.”

Weisbrot noted that much of Kim’s career was with Partners in Health, which Kim co-founded. “Partners in Health is a uniquely dynamic and enormously capable organization that has implemented important changes in approaches to preventing and treating diseases and other health problems, and Kim deserves much credit for that.”

Weisbrot noted, “However, the Bank’s process is still deeply flawed because the majority of the world’s countries are not really involved and I hope that for the next presidency, they will come together long in advance to agree on a candidate.”

Weisbrot noted the importance of Jeffrey Sachs’ candidacy as having busted open the process and raised the bar for whom could be nominated. Sachs’ campaigning for the Bank’s presidency was unprecedented in its openness, in Sachs’ platform of reform for the Bank, and in terms of Sachs’ qualifications as an economist with extensive experience in economic development and as a health expert, who, like Kim, has worked to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

“Once Sachs was nominated, it was clear it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to follow past practice and simply choose, again, a political insider or a banker,” Weisbrot said.

Weisbrot noted that Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination by several African countries today also represents an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. government’s traditional domination in choosing the next World Bank president.

“Developing nations have stood up to the U.S. and transformed the process – first by nominating Sachs, and then by nominating Okonjo-Iweala. This is a historic and irreversible shift. Next time it will almost certainly be even more democratic, and we’ll again see qualified candidates, and not just cronies, nominated to helm the Bank. Now let’s have an open debate between the candidates so that the best person for the job may be chosen.”


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