The US has picked a surprise candidate to head the World Bank.
Jim Yong Kim is not an economist or a banker, but a South Korean born public health expert who is best known for his work with the World Health Organisation fighting HIV/AIDS in impoverished countries.
President Barack Obama explained why he had chosen Kim: “I believe that nobody is more qualified to carry out that mission than Dr. Jim Kim. It’s time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency.”
Kim faces one challenger, Nigeria’s Finance Minister
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has been endorsed by emerging African economies Angola, Nigeria and South Africa.
But Washington is almost certain to prevail as it retains the largest single voting share — nearly 16 percent — and can expect the support of European nations and Japan, who have another almost 36 percent.
Current World Bank president, American Robert Zoellick, is due to step down in June.
Traditionally an American has always headed the global development lender and it looks like that tradition will continue.
The backers of Nigeria’s Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, said they wanted change.
The three African countries said in a statement: “The endorsement is in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, should be merit-based, open and transparent.”
The rise of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil has put pressure on the United States and Europe to throw open the selection process for both the bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Kim is well known in health circles, but less so in the political circles from which former World Bank presidents have often been drawn, and his nomination came as a surprise. His name had not surfaced in a series of media reports on potential candidates.