President Obama is set to nominate Partners in Health co-founder and Dartmouth College President Jim yong-Kim as president of the World Bank. This is a pretty bold move by President Obama.
Tradition holds that World Bank presidents are American (and IMF leaders are from Europe). But it is more than “tradition” that holds this in place. Unlike at the UN, where one country gets one vote, at the World Bank voting is weighted by the size of a country’s financial contributions. The USA invests the most in the World Bank, so has the largest voting share. Ergo, despite clamoring from the developing world about wanting one of their own to lead the World Bank America’s choice will lead the bank.
What strikes me as bold about this choice is 1) Jim Kim is most definitely not a Washington, DC insider. Unlike his predecessors, he is not a beltway household name. 2) He is a medical doctor by training, and a social entrepreneur by vocation. He founded the NGO Partners in Health with Paul Farmer. The impression one gets from reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, an award winning book about Partners in Health and Paul Farmer, is that Kim is a very competent administrator, in addition to being a totally brilliant anthropologist/doctor/global health practitioner.
It will be interesting to see where a medical doctor and social entrepreneur (not an ex-politician, political hack or finance guy) takes the World Bank.