Shadow Government

Why Jim Yong Kim will be a good World Bank president

Jim Yong Kim is the American candidate for the World Bank president. The U.S. supported the European candidate for the IMF and the Europeans will support our candidate for the World Bank. I had assumed it was going to be Hillary Clinton. I was wrong and so were many others. Overall, an out of the ...

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Jim Yong Kim is the American candidate for the World Bank president. The U.S. supported the European candidate for the IMF and the Europeans will support our candidate for the World Bank. I had assumed it was going to be Hillary Clinton. I was wrong and so were many others.

Overall, an out of the box pick and a clever pick in terms of responding to the expected lines of attack to a U.S. candidate. At the end of the day, the Europeans owe us this one after we helped them with the IMF, so ignore any manufactured "drama" about his candidacy being in question.

An initial set of thoughts:

1) Dr. Kim is a dual national both Korean and U.S. He helps respond to the criticism that the U.S. "holds" the World Bank. Perhaps Indra Nooyi’s dual nationality was an issue for the White House because putting an Indian in such a role would have likely been "vetoed" by the Chinese.

Also, Dr. Kim’s family will have experienced the power of prosperity and development in their own lives through the success of South Korea. South Korea and Ghana famously had the same GNP per capita in 1960. South Korea is now a donor nation and one of the world’s largest economies. Dr. Kim’s life experience is an asset.

2) Dr. Kim, as a College president has to manage a fractious board, a tenured faculty and deal with donors who want constant attention while also trying to provide thought leadership. The World Bank’s staff are (too) pampered with many many privileges — just like a tenured faculty. The World Bank’s board is like a college board of directors — only larger and more of a micro-manager than a college board of directors. The World Bank’s donors — including the U.S. congress demand constant attention — just like college donors do. From that standpoint, he also is an interesting pic.

3) Dr. Kim, as a global health expert, answers the criticism that past World Bank Presidents "do not come with development expertise."

4) Tim Geithner is a prominent alum of Dartmouth and thus knows Dr. Kim, and the Treasury Department is the lead agency when it comes to the World Bank for the U.S. Government. This is how Dr. Kim would have been put on the table.

5) Dr. Kim’s challenge is that the big opportunities for the World Bank are not in the global health arena and the World Bank will not be the leader in global health going forward. He will need to pick lieutenants who bolster him in three areas. First, in terms of bolstering the World Bank’s work in the private sector, a strong banker with development experience would be a good pick for the IFC job (which is also open) — my recommendation would be someone like the Dutchman, Michael Barth, former head of FMO (the Dutch OPIC) and former World Bank and IFC Director (if an American could get that job, I would nominate the American Elizabeth Littlefield, the very highly regarded CEO of OPIC for the top job at IFC). Second, Dr. Kim needs to elevate the role of governance in the World Bank with a new Vice Presidency for Governance. He should pick someone such as the prominent Chilean economist Dani Kaufman for such a role. Third, he needs to strengthen the World Bank’s ability and processes to work in conflict zones and post conflict zones regardless of the vocal objections of the World Bank staff. He should pick a former staffer for that and create a Vice Presidency for Conflict and Fragile States and make it a fast track career path. I would recommend he names someone like the American Dennis De Tray, former Bank Country director and former adviser to General Petraeus, for this role.

Daniel Runde served in the George W. Bush administration at USAID. He also worked at the World Bank Group (IFC). He currently holds the William A. Schreyer Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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