President Obama Names Nominee to Lead World Bank

On Friday, March 23, the White House officially nominated Dr. Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank.  Currently the president of Dartmouth College – the first Asian American to hold that position at any Ivy League university – Dr. Kim is well-known and highly respected among aid experts for his work in global health and development.  Most notably, he was the former director of the World  Health Organization’s Department of HIV/AIDS where he launched the “3 by 5” initiative, largely regarded as one of the most successful modern global health initiatives.

While at Dartmouth, Dr. Kim launched the Dartmouth Center for Healthcare Delivery Science, which brings together an international network of researchers and practitioners to develop new models of high-quality, low-cost healthcare.  In addition, he instituted the National College Health Improvement Project.  He also co-founded a non-profit called Partners in Health, which provides healthcare to the poor.  An anthropologist and physician by training, Dr. Kim emigrated the United States when he was just five years old.  He went on to Brown University, graduating magna cum laude and earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University as well.

Now the frontrunner for the position, Dr. Kim had not been among the names recently tossed about in the policy discourse, nor is he among the most well-known either.  The list of heavy hitters included Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Senator John Kerry, former Treasury Secretary and Obama economic advisor Lawrence Summers, PepsiCo chief Indra Nooyi, and even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  In addition, development expert and Columbia professor Jeffrey Sachs nominated himself for the post.  Developing countries have rallied around two candidates thus far: the Nigerian finance minister and the former Colombian finance minister.

Developing countries, particularly China, continue to press for greater representation in and control over the organization that directly serves them, however it was unlikely that President Obama would have yielded to these demands, especially in an election year.  Although it is wise to encourage the increasing international role of developing nations, the nontraditional support for a non-American could have been a symbol of declining American influence that many Americans are quick to counter.  In this context, the nomination of Dr. Kim is not surprising.  Even though he is an American citizen, his immigrant – specifically Asian – background is significant and perhaps an attempt at appeasement.  Dr. Kim has minimal experience in economics, banking, or policy, so his unconventional background may indeed benefit the organization as it tackles the challenges of 21st-century development.

Posted by: Brian Gowen

Sources: The White House, The New York Times, U.S. News and World Report

Photo Credit:  Los Angeles Times (Andrew Harrer / European Pressphoto Agency)

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