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American Seeks World Bank's Top Job


U.S. President Barack Obama (R) introduces Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to be the next president of the World Bank, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 23, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) introduces Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim as his nominee to be the next president of the World Bank, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 23, 2012.

Top World Bank officials will soon decide which of three candidates will become president of the global development institution. Two of the candidates are finance experts - Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo. The U.S. nominee is global health expert Jim Yong Kim.

"They have more than doubled the number of people on treatment in the last 18 months," said Kim. "This is movement in the area of HIV/AIDS the like of which we’ve never seen before."

Over the course of his career, Jim Yong Kim, a medical doctor, has headed efforts to fight AIDS at the United Nations, founded a non-government organization that promotes health care around the world, and taught at Harvard's schools of medicine and public health. He is now the president of Dartmouth College.

The Korean-born U.S. citizen impressed President Barack Obama, who nominated him for the World Bank job.

"It's time for a development professional to lead the world’s largest development agency," said Obama.

Japan’s Finance Minister Jun Azumi says Kim's work at the World Health Organization was impressive.

"He was a great success on the AIDS problem. He is an extremely suitable candidate for president of the World Bank," said Azumi.

Some development experts, though, say the bank focuses on promoting economic growth to pay for health care, education, and infrastructure.

World Bank veteran Uri Dadush is now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"His [Kim’s] background is actually very narrow. Focused on health, whereas the bank has maybe 20 different sectors of activity," said Dadush.

Nancy Birsdall of the Center for Global Development says Kim may change the World Bank’s culture.

"He [Kim] is very keen on what I would call developing a learning culture, based on evidence, that the role of the bank as a knowledge bank should be emphasized," she said.

Birdsall says Kim is likely to push the bank harder to form partnerships with emerging nations, do more listening, and be quick to learn from projects that fail and apply those lessons to new areas.

The World Bank's president has always been an American, but many major emerging economies want more of a say in the choice of leadership.

While this is the first time there have been multiple candidates, many stories in the financial news say U.S. political and financial clout mean Kim will probably get the job.

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