Heartening news from the Other Washington this morning: President Barack Obama has named Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim – a global health expert and a skilled progressive leader – as the United States’ choice to head the World Bank after Robert Zoellick steps down in June.
“Jim has spent more than two decades working to improve conditions in developing countries around the world,” said President Obama in a statement released by the White House. “The World Bank is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty and raise standards of living around the globe, and Jim’s personal experience and years of service make him an ideal candidate for this job.”
At a press conference in the Rose Garden, standing alongside U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama introduced Kim and explained why he thinks the World Bank needs a new kind of leader:
Now, despite its name, the World Bank is more than just a bank. It’s one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty and raise standards of living in some of the poorest countries on the planet. And in a world that is growing smaller and more connected every day, that’s a critical mission -– not just for those who are struggling, but for all of us.
When we reduce hunger in the world, or help a farmer recover from a flood or a drought, it strengthens the entire world economy. When we put an end to a preventable disease, all of us are safer because of it. When an entrepreneur can start a new business, it creates jobs in their country, but also opens up new markets for our country. And ultimately, when a nation goes from poverty to prosperity, it makes the world stronger and more secure for everybody.
That’s why the World Bank is so important. And that’s why the leader of the World Bank should have a deep understanding of both the role that development plays in the world, and the importance of creating conditions where assistance is no longer needed.
I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission than Dr. Jim Kim. It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency. And that’s why today, after a careful and thorough search, I am nominating Dr. Jim Kim to be the next president of the World Bank.
Emphasis is ours.
We strongly agree, and we thank President Obama for making this nomination. The world community will be well served with Dr. Kim at the helm of the World Bank.
Dr. Kim has spent years fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa and working to improve humanity’s defenses against infectious diseases. Prior to becoming president of Dartmouth College in 2009, Dr. Kim was involved with the college’s Center for Health Care Delivery Service (which he founded), as well as Partners in Health (which he helped launch) and the U.N.’s World Health Organization (where he served as the head of the Department of HIV/AIDS). He holds degrees from Brown and Harvard and belongs to the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine.
Distinguished economist Jeffrey Sachs, who recruited himself for the job (and was nominated by several other countries) in the hopes of encouraging President Obama to pick someone like himself or Dr. Kim, said he was thrilled.
“Dr. Jim Kim is a superb nominee for the World Bank presidency,” Sachs said in a statement released to the press announcing that he was withdrawing his candidacy. “I congratulate the administration for nominating a world-class development leader for this position.”
His spokeswoman, Erin Trowbridge added: “Professor Sachs supports Dr Kim one hundred percent and with complete enthusiasm.”
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (one of America’s best progressive think tanks, which studies issues affecting the world community) described the nomination as historic and unprecedented.
“This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he’ll be the first qualified president in sixty-eight 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.”
The White House was reportedly considering nominating discredited economist Larry Summers – who advised President Obama on economic issues during his first two years in office – but apparently dropped that idea after encountering resistance from other countries, members of Congress, and NGOs.
The World Bank has never had a president who wasn’t either a political insider or a banker, so Kim’s nomination is indeed historic, and welcome. Already it is drawing praise from around the globe. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda had this to say after learning of Dr. Kim’s nomination:
I was delighted to learn that Jim Kim has been nominated for this post, as he is a true friend of Africa and well known for his decade of work to support us in developing an efficient health system in Rwanda. He’s not only a physician and a leader who knows what it takes to address poverty, but also a genuinely good person. President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Kim as President of the World Bank is a welcome one, and should resonate well with the many men and women who are working to transform lives around the world.
Kim is not guaranteed to become the next World Bank president. However, someone from the United States has always held the post, and Europe and Japan will likely back Dr. Kim’s nomination, thereby ensuring that the job goes to him.
At least one other credible candidate has been nominated: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who serves as Nigeria’s Minister of Finance. Iweala will likely make the short list of candidates that the World Bank’s board will choose from.
The board is expected to make a decision by April 21st.