Washington: The US
Friday named Jim Yong Kim as its candidate to lead the World Bank
(WB), but he faces a challenge from two non-Americans - an
unprecedented happening in the global financial institution.
The two candidates - Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria and Jose
Antonio Ocampo of Colombia - endorsed by developing countries,
pose a challenge to the US' monopoly to the top post of the WB,
It is for the first time that two non-American candidates will
compete with a US nominee.
What's more, both of them have impressive credentials as
economists and diplomats.
US President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Jim Yong
Kim, a Korean-American global health expert, as candidate to
replace outgoing Robert Zoellick, whose term as WB president
expires at the end of June.
"It's time for a development professional to lead the world's
largest development agency," Obama said as he made the
"Jim has truly global experience," said Obama.
"He has worked from Asia to Africa to the Americas, from capitals
to small villages. His personal story exemplifies the great
diversity to our country."
The selection is commonly considered as a surprise pick because
Kim, the current Dartmouth College president, has hardly been
talked about for the nominee in the past week.
The US traditional choices of the WB head have been either
politicians or business leaders since the bank was founded after
World War II.
Obama chose Kim out of several more well-known candidates, such as
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, and Lawrence Summers,
former director of the president's National Economic Council.
Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for
International economics, called it a "quite unusual choice".
Yukon Huang, a senior associate in the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, told Xinhua the message the White House
conveyed was that the nominee is a man of the world - born in
Korea, raised and educated in the US with professional interests
that are highly relevant for developing countries.
US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who openly campaigned for the job and
finally withdrew, said in an article posted on the Washington Post
website that "without incisive leadership, the bank has often
seemed like just a bank".
"And unfortunately, Washington has backed at the helm bankers and
politicians who lack the expertise to fulfill the institution's
unique mandate," Sachs added.
Okonjo-Iweala, the current Nigerian finance minister, was
nominated by three African countries - South Africa, Angola and
her native land. She has profound working experience in the
multinational World Bank and her capability has been widely
Ocampo, endorsed by Brazil, has strong academic background and
held posts in the Colombian government as well as the UN.
Although Yukon Huang said Kim's selection was not driven by
domestic political considerations but by his professional
qualifications, Subramanian doubted whether Kim is a better choice
in terms of international experience and management.
Domenico Lombardi, a former WB board official said the impressive
background of both Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala signals a big shift
and really reflects a game change. He said this is the first time
in history for a truly contested election.
However, analysts believe that the US is very much likely to have
the last laugh as it is the WB's largest donor and has the largest
Uri Dadush and Moises Naim, senior associates at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace, criticized the way that top
leaders of the WB and International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been
They said the leaders of both the WB and IMF are selected through
"opaque, quota-driven negotiations", which have been defied by the
"No well-run global company selects its senior management this
way," they added.
Rogerio Studart, the Brazilian member of the WB's 25-member
executive board, said there was a strong sense among developing
countries that the selection of Zoellick's successor should
involve a broader discussion about the bank's future.