President Obama Reveals Pick for Next World Bank President

Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth College, was nominated by President Obama on Friday to become the next president of the World Bank. Unlike previous heads of the World Bank, whose backgrounds have been in economics or business, Kim’s experience lies mostly in medicine, including a stint as a senior official with the World Health Organization. Kim is known for his work in addressing health issues in developing countries, including the AIDS epidemic in Africa, and helped launch a non-profit organization called Partners in Health, which sets up and funds health programs in impoverished nations.

In a press conference held at the White House to introduce Kim, President Obama said that the World Bank is really the world’s largest development agency, and said that it’s time a development professional was put in charge of it. The World Bank was established after World War II to help the Allied powers shape the post-war global economy in conjunction with the International Monetary Fund. The organization now includes 187 member nations, and offers loans and grants in addition to technical expertise for a wide variety of development projects in nations around the world.

The bulk of the loans, grants and operations benefit projects in the developing world, yet the United States has maintained control of its leadership since its inception. That’s because when it and the IMF were founded, an agreement was made that an American would always head the World Bank while a European would always run the IMF. The two agencies get their funding from member nations, referred to as shareholders, and voting power is based on that funding.

As the largest contributor to both agencies, the US has the biggest chunk of voting rights within each of their boards, at right around 16 percent. The US and Europe combined have about half the voting shares at the IMF and World Bank, which has allowed them to maintain combined dominance of the organizations’ leadership. The World bank revealed a short list of nominees for the post of president late Friday, so Obama was facing something of an unofficial deadline to announce his own pick. Columbia University economist Jefferey Sachs had nominated himself for the post, but withdrew after Obama’s announcement, saying he has complete faith in Kim.

The World Bank is expected to vote on its next president during its spring meeting the week of April 16th, though the vote is largely viewed as a symbolic vote since the US and Europe will cast their votes in favor of Dr. Kim.