World Bank Adheres to 'Old Order' in Its New Chief

By Lowrey, Annie | International Herald Tribune, April 17, 2012 | Go to article overview

World Bank Adheres to 'Old Order' in Its New Chief


Lowrey, Annie, International Herald Tribune


The selection of Jim Yong Kim of the United States was no surprise, but the board had, for the first time, considered more than one candidate, a reflection of the increasing clout of emerging- market countries.

The World Bank on Monday named as its next president Jim Yong Kim, a global health expert and the president of Dartmouth College, continuing the long tradition of an American leading the Washington- based development institution.

Dr. Kim, 52, will take over on July 1, after the current president, Robert B. Zoellick, steps down at the end of his five- year term.

The selection of Dr. Kim by the bank's 25-member executive board was no surprise, but the board had, for the first time, considered more than one candidate, a reflection of the increasing clout of emerging-market countries.

"The old order has triumphed yet again, but this may be its last hurrah," said Eswar S. Prasad, a professor of trade policy at Cornell University. "The tradition of carving up the top jobs at the major international financial institutions among nominees of advanced countries has become untenable and unjustifiable."

Numerous African countries had rallied around Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, the Nigerian finance minister and former World Bank managing director. Jose Antonio Ocampo, the former Colombian central banker and United Nations official, was also a candidate, though he withdrew from the race and threw his support behind Ms. Okonjo- Iweala on Friday.

Ms. Okonjo-Iweala and Mr. Ocampo faced long odds, given the composition of the World Bank board. Europe, the United States and Japan control about half of the voting shares. But their candidacies reignited a debate over Washington's continued control of the institution.

The bank itself has granted more power recently to countries like China, Brazil and India as their cash-rich and fast-growing economies are called on to finance development programs and multilateral institutions, not just to receive financing from them. In 2010, the World Bank increased the relative voting share of emerging economies. It also committed to an open, transparent and merit-based presidential selection process.

But those changes have not yet resulted in someone other than an American rising to the top of the organization. Traditionally, an American oversees the World Bank, which finances a wide variety of private and public development projects, while a European heads the International Monetary Fund.

A number of prominent development and aid groups had criticized the race for remaining unfairly skewed to the American nominee's benefit. The two candidates from emerging-market countries had also critiqued the selection process.

Mr. Ocampo said in his statement withdrawing from the race, "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-orientated exercise."

In a statement, the World Bank's board said each of the nominees had "received support from different member countries, which reflected the high caliber of the candidates. …

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