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Who is Jim Yong Kim, nominee for World Bank president?

The selection of Jim Yong Kim took many by surprise since he is not well known in Washington circles and wasn’t an expected candidate for the World Bank position.

By Kara Bloomgarden-SmokeContributor / March 23, 2012



President Obama has nominated Jim Yong Kim, a global health policy expert and the president of Dartmouth College, to run the World Bank.

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The selection took many by surprise since Mr. Kim is not well known in Washington circles and wasn’t an expected candidate for the position. At least one other person had openly campaigned for the position, which was a break in protocol.

Before taking the reins at Dartmouth, Kim was active in health issues in developing countries for much of his career. Between 2004 and 2006, Kim was director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS Department. He was a co-founder of Partners in Health, which provides health care to the poor, and has worked on international tuberculosis policy.

Kim gained fame among Dartmouth students for his rapping, dancing spaceman routine during a school version of American Idol. (http://www.ivygateblog.com/2011/03/dartmouths-prez-kim-debuts-as-a-rapping-spaceman/)

Since the White House traditionally selects the president of the World Bank, Kim is now expected to take the helm. The current president, Robert Zoellick, will step down on June 30 after a five-year term.

“Jim has spent more than two decades working to improve conditions in developing countries around the world,” said Mr. Obama in a statement. “The World Bank is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce poverty and raise standards of living around the globe, and Jim’s personal experience and years of service make him an ideal candidate for this job.”

The World Bank aims to reduce poverty and support development by giving financial and technical assistance to developing countries. Criticism of the World Bank ranges from disagreements over what kind of assistance is best to concerns about corruption to dissatisfaction with the United States having so much say in choosing the World Bank leader.

After Mr. Zoellick announced last month he was stepping down, Jeffrey Sachs, director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, raised eyebrows by launching a campaign to lead the World Bank.

But some saw that as a good thing, raising the bar for who could be nominated. Mr. Sachs is also an economist with extensive experience in economic development as well as a health expert who, like Kim, has worked to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Sachs advocated reform for the World Bank.

“Once Sachs [came forward], it was clear it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to follow past practice and simply choose, again, a political insider or a banker,” says Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Despite not getting the nomination, Sachs expressed his support for Kim via Twitter.

“Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB. I support him 100%. I thank all who supported me and know they'll be very pleased with today's news,” he tweeted.

Several African countries endorsed Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, which was seen as a way to break the US hold on deciding World Bank presidents. José Antonio Ocampo, Colombia’s former Finance minister, was also put forward.

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