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US pick for World Bank presidency takes case to Board Directors

WASHINGTON – Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. nominee to head the World Bank, yesterday, told the bank’s board of directors that he would not hesitate to question the status quo and do his best to help the world’s poorest.

In a two and a half page address made public by the Treasury Department, Kim outlined the reasons he believed his training as a public health expert and former president of Dartmouth College equipped him with the skills needed to take over the World Bank in June when current president Robert Zoellick steps down.

Jim Yong Kim

“You would find in me someone who asks hard questions about the status quo and is not afraid to challenge existing orthodoxies,” Kim said. “I’d bring rigor, objectivity and a focus on data that help all of us define and achieve our shared vision of securing strong economic growth and delivering greater opportunity for the world’s poor,” he said. Kim was expected to undergo a round of questioning from bank directors as the two other contenders for the job — Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, already have done.

A decision on Zoellick’s successor is to be made public by the time the bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, hold semi-annual meetings in Washington April 20-22. Kim has been on a world tour that has taken him to Asia and Latin America to meet finance leaders and to try to drum up support for his U.S.-backed candidacy.

A leading global financial journal, The Economist, said in a recent edition that it thinks Okonjo-Iweala is better qualified to take over the World Bank than is Kim. The journal cited her experience in economics and finance and rated it as superior to Kim’s background.

Meanwhile the third contender for the World Bank top job, Jose Antonio Ocampo has said the unprecedented challenge posed by developing countries to the U.S. grip on the World Bank presidency will test industrial nations’ commitment to an open selection process.

Ocampo who is a former Colombian finance minister said: “We are putting the industrial countries to account … if they are really committed to an open, merit-based system,” Ocampo told an event hosted by the Center for Global Development and the Washington Post.

Under an informal agreement, the World Bank has always been led by an American and the International Monetary Fund by a European since the founding of the institutions after World War Two. Ocampo was interviewed by the 25-member World Bank board of member countries. He said each of the board directors asked between two to five questions, which focused mainly on his qualifications for the job.

The board meets on Friday to conduct a straw poll to see if one candidate emerges as a clear favourite.

It is expected to announce its choice on April 16, in time for the IMF and World Bank meetings of global finance leaders in Washington the same week.  Emerging and developing countries have pushed aggressively for more say in the World Bank and its sister organisation the IMF.

They argue that their growing economic clout should be recognised by giving them more power in the two finance institutions.

Ocampo said the next few days will be important in determining whether the selection process was based on the merits of each candidate or on voting power. Okonjo-Iweala, who was the first nominee to be interviewed by the board earlier, called on the U.S. to show leadership by ending the long tradition of an American always heading the World Bank.


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