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World Bank: Okonjo-Iweala loses to America’s Kim

By Omoh Gabriel with Agency Report
LAGOS—The World Bank, yesterday, chose Korean-born American health expert Jim Yong Kim as its new president, maintaining Washington’s grip on the job and leaving developing countries questioning the selection process.

Kim, 52, won the job over Nigeria’s widely respected finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, with the support of Washington’s allies in Western Europe, Japan, Canada and some emerging market economies, including Russia and Mexico. A statement announcing the selection said: “The Executive Directors met today (yesterday) to select a new President of the World Bank Group.

Jim Yong Kim

The Board expressed its deep gratitude for Mr. Robert B. Zoellick’s outstanding leadership and his dedication to reducing poverty in its member countries, the core mandate of the World Bank Group.

“The Executive Directors followed the new selection process agreed in 2011 which, for the first time in the Bank’s history, yielded multiple nominees. This process included an open nomination where any national of the Bank’s membership could be proposed by any Executive Director or Governor, publication of the names of the candidates, interviews of the candidates by the Executive Directors, and final selection of the President.

“The Executive Directors selected Dr. Jim Yong Kim as President for a five-year term beginning on July 1, 2012. The President is Chair of the Boards of Directors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). The President is also ex-officio Chair of the Boards of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the Administrative Council of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

“We, the Executive Directors, wish to express our deep appreciation to all the nominees, Jim Yong Kim, José Antonio Ocampo and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Their candidacies enriched the discussion of the role of the President and of the World Bank Group’s future direction.

The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high calibre of the candidates. We all look forward to working with Dr. Kim when he assumes his responsibilities.

The man Dr. Jim Yong Kim

“Dr. Jim Yong Kim is currently President of Dartmouth College. A U.S. national, Dr. Kim is a co-founder of Partners in Health (PIH) and a former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Before assuming the Dartmouth presidency, Dr. Kim held professorships at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He also served as chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of the François Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Born in 1959 in Seoul, South Korea, Dr. Kim moved with his family to the United States at the age of five and grew up in Muscatine, Iowa. Dr. Kim graduated magna cum laude from Brown University in 1982. He earned a medical doctorate from Harvard Medical School in 1991 and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1993. He is married to Dr. Younsook Lim, a pediatrician. The couple has two young sons”.

Zoellick congratulates Kim

Meanwhile the outgoing World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick has congratulated Dr. Jim Yong Kim for being chosen to become the 12th president of the development institution and offered his support in ensuring a successful handover for July 1.  In a statement he said: “I am pleased to work with Jim Yong Kim during the transition. He is an impressive and accomplished individual. Jim has seen poverty and vulnerability first-hand, through his impressive work in developing countries.

His innovations in health-care have helped to save numerous lives. As President at Dartmouth College, Jim has had to take tough managerial and financial decisions while running a large, multidisciplinary organization. His rigorous, science-based drive for results will be invaluable for the World Bank Group as it modernizes to better serve client countries in overcoming poverty.”

Echoes from the IMF elections

The failure of competitors to unite behind a candidate is reminiscent of the contest to head the IMF last year, when Mexican Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens lost to then- French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. The IMF has always been headed by a European.  The bank’s approval of Kim “reflects how global governance continues to lag behind changing economic realities,” Prasad said. “Emerging-market economies are increasingly dominant in global trade, finance and output, but the advanced economies continue to maintain their positions of privilege at major international financial institutions.” South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, whose country nominated Okonjo-Iweala, today criticized the bank’s selection process, saying it “falls short” for not being transparent or merit-based.

Unlike previous World Bank elections, the decision was not unanimous. “The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high calibre of the candidates,” the Bank said in announcing its board’s decision. Kim, president of Dartmouth College, will assume his new post on July 1.

Brazil had backed Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the new head of the World Bank and demanded quicker reforms at the IMF to bolster developing nations’ voice at global organizations, Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega said yesterday. Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s finance minister was the sole candidate from developing nations in a race against U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-American health expert who secured the post. Mantega said Okonjo-Iweala had more experience and was better prepared to lead the bank at a time when emerging-market nations seek to increase their clout in the global financial architecture. He said the world’s No. 6 economy will not give additional funds to the International Monetary Fund unless the organization shows a firm commitment to move ahead with reforms.

Jim Yong Kim was chosen to be president of the World Bank, becoming the first physician and Asian-American to head the World Bank after emerging markets failed to rally around a challenger to the U.S. monopoly on the job. Jim Yong Kim, was politically backed by US, Europe and Japan which controls about 54 per cent of the votes cast yesterday in Washington DC. Ocampo’s withdrawal had left the two candidates in an unprecedented challenge to U.S. control of the global development institution.

Ocampo faults election process

Ocampo in his withdrawal speech puts it clearly thus “It is clear that the process is shifting from a strict merit-based competition, in which my candidacy stood on strong grounds, into a more political-oriented exercise”. In this process, I stand on weaker grounds due to the lack of open support from the government of my home country, Colombia,” he added. Ocampo, said he did not believe the selection process had been conducted in a fully open, transparent and merit-based fashion, but it had established a strong precedent.

 


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