News Release

World Bank: First Qualified President?


MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “The Obama administration’s announcement that it will nominate health expert and Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim for World Bank president represents a historic milestone in the institution’s history, with the U.S. nominating, for the first time, a qualified candidate. This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he’ll be the first qualified president in 68 years. Kim’s nomination is a victory for all the people, organizations, and governments that stood up to the Obama administration and demanded an open, merit-based process.

“Much of Kim’s career was with Partners in Health, which Kim co-founded. Partners in Health is a uniquely dynamic and enormously capable organization that has implemented important changes in approaches to preventing and treating diseases and other health problems, and Kim deserves much credit for that.

“However, the Bank’s process is still deeply flawed because the majority of the world’s countries are not really involved and I hope that for the next presidency, they will come together long in advance to agree on a candidate.”

Weisbrot noted the importance of Jeffrey Sachs’ candidacy as having busted open the process and “raised the bar for whom could be nominated. Sachs’ campaigning for the Bank’s presidency was unprecedented in its openness, in Sachs’ platform of reform for the Bank, and in terms of Sachs’ qualifications as an economist with extensive experience in economic development and as a health expert, who, like Kim, has worked to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

“Once Sachs was nominated, it was clear it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to follow past practice and simply choose, again, a political insider or a banker,” Weisbrot said. Weisbrot noted that Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination by several African countries today also “represents an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. government’s traditional domination in choosing the next World Bank president.”

Chilean and British economist Stephany Griffith-Jones, currently Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University recently wrote the piece “What Makes Jose Antonio Ocampo a Good Candidate for President of the World Bank.”

She said today: “Jim Yong Kim is certainly an interesting choice, and he might be a great candidate to head up a health organization, but the World Bank is focused on development and infrastructure. Someone like Ocampo has that background in economics and development, and he has chosen to spend an important part of his career working in Colombia, the developing country where he was born.”

In her recent article, Griffith-Jones wrote: “Jose Antonio provides the rare combination of an experienced and successful policy-maker at the highest level (he was Minister of three portfolios in Colombia, including Finance, but also Agriculture and Planning), an outstanding international civil servant again at the highest level (including as Under Secretary General at the United Nations, as well as well as Head of the UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), and a leading academic researcher in key issues relating to development and macro-economic policy.”

Griffith-Jones notes that Reuters recently reported: “While Ocampo had agreed to stand and Brazil was willing to nominate him, Colombian Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on Thursday that Colombia was instead focusing on a bid for the presidency of the International Labor Organization.”