By nominating Jim Yong Kim for the presidency of the World Bank, US president Barack Obama has taken some of the sting out of the nasty process by which Washington traditionally appoints the development organisation’s head.
The Financial Times has long argued for ending the US chokehold on the World Bank presidency and Europe’s mirror-image entitlement to put one of its own in the managing director’s chair at the International Monetary Fund. The current system is unfair to the poorer nations most affected by these institutions’ work and an inefficient way to find the most qualified leader. This does not mean an American or a European should not be appointed, but that candidates should be chosen based on merit and not nationality.
There is no indication that the White House will now allow an open contest for the World Bank – nor that Congress would authorise financial support to the Bank if its leader were not American. But if Mr Kim is indeed appointed, it will be a choice that the rest of the world can welcome.
Unexpected as his nomination is, Mr Kim is qualified for world’s top development job. His understanding of public health is deep and many-faceted; it ranges from academic expertise in medicine and anthropology to hands-on work on healthcare delivery in developing countries. He is known for an ability to defy conventional wisdom to find solutions and an aptitude for crossing disciplinary boundaries, in particular from the development and public health communities to the economics and business world. These skills, which have proved their worth in poor country health efforts, are immediately relevant to the Bank’s broader development mandate. Running Dartmouth College also gives him bureaucratic experience – essential to any successful World Bank presidency.
Mr Kim is not the only good candidate. But if Mr Obama was not going to give up America’s unjustified privilege, with this choice he certainly refrained from abusing it.
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