By Nicolan Reddy
Korean-born health expert Jim Yong Kim was chosen by the board of the World Bank as its new leader. The 52-year-old won in a decision that, for the first time in World Bank history, was not unanimous. “The final nominees received support from different member countries, which reflected the high calibre of the candidates,” said the World Bank in a statement announcing the board’s decision. Kim will assume his post on 1 July when the resigned president Robert Zoellick’s term ends in June, and will serve for five years. There is speculation and debate as to whether or not the appointment of Kim will lead to the reforms that many global financial leaders are calling for.
Among these leaders is South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who has long criticised the voting structure and transparency of the World Bank. The US has traditionally appointed the World Bank president who takes a European deputy and vice versa at the International Monetary Fund. In previous elections, a very limited global demographic has been represented in the voting process, and this is something that emerging markets have motioned to change. “From what I’m hearing there’s serious concerns about transparency,” said Gordhan, with regards to the voting process. He also linked this to whether the process had been a merit-based one. “The world will be waiting to see whether the World Bank has improved its legitimacy [and] has broadened its base of participation in the terms of the kinds of candidates it will entertain.”
Many believe that the voting process was more fair and transparent this time. Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who had the backing of the African continent, was the only other candidate for the job after Brazilian nominated professor at Columbia University Jose Antonio Ocampo pulled out of the race. Okonjo-lweala, who lost the election, is happy with the decision and that a much broader demographic had participated in the election. She believes Kim is an excellent choice despite criticism of him being a medical doctor and not a development economist like herself.
“As President, I will seek a new alignment of the World Bank Group with a rapidly changing world. Together, with partners old and new, we will foster an institution that responds effectively to the needs of its diverse clients and donors, delivers more powerful results to support sustained growth, prioritises evidence-based solutions over ideology, amplifies the voices of developing countries, and draws on the expertise and experience of the people we serve,” said Kim. These are promises the world is waiting for him to deliver in the wake of both a financially volatile global economy and Africa experiencing global economic growth.