• Shoo-in World Bank chief unopposed but not uncriticized


    WASHINGTON: The way is now clear for a second term for the American president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim.

    After a first term hailed by some Bank member states but marked by internal discord, Kim this month became the only candidate running for his own succession.

    In keeping with an unbroken tradition, the US nominee will again fill the presidency at the World Bank, while the International Monetary Fund remains in European hands as Christine Lagarde, also unopposed, began a second term as managing director in July.

    After nominations opened, no other country took the risk of trying to upset this established order — unlike in 2012, when the Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala threw her hat in the ring to be leader of the development behemoth, which comprises 189 member states and employs 15,000 people.

    Still, Kim’s record since taking office that year is not spotless.

    A medical doctor and former president of Dartmouth College, Kim won plaudits for mobilizing the Bank against the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa and taking action against climate change, as well as for setting a goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 all while expanding World Bank lending.

    But he also had to contend with a high degree of internal dissent, stemming from an unpopular reorganization and a controversy in 2014 over bonuses granted to senior Bank officials.

    The World Bank Staff Association last month denounced what it called a “crisis of leadership,” and in an open letter several former officials lamented what they said was the lack of a clear strategy. The Economist and Financial Times opposed automatically reappointing Kim and called for a more open process.

    Despite all this, poor and developing countries still chose to support a second term for Kim, 56, who will sit for interviews with the Bank’s board before being formally crowned next month. His second five-year term is due to begin in July next year.

    An informal leader of the emerging markets, China has praised Kim’s “impressive achievement and leadership” even if Beijing set about creating its own development bank to counter the Western hegemony of the World Bank and IMF.

    “It reveals the power of incumbency. Kim has spent more than four years forming close relations with key actors in the emerging-market countries,” said Scott Morris of the Center for Global Development. “The staff are not in the position of reelecting him. It’s up to the shareholders.”

    Other more critical observers say the selection process was biased, hurriedly begun in the dead of summer and locked down by the United States, the Bank’s largest shareholder.

    Almost immediately after the window for nominations opened, the US Treasury offered its support for a second term for Kim, helping to discourage any other candidacy.

    “The US show of force has cooled off any serious candidate who might have been thinking of applying for the job,” said Paul Cadario, a former Bank official and now a distinguished fellow at the University of Toronto.

    By taking charge, the United States also doubtless sought to nip in the bud any potential World Bank leadership contest ahead of the US presidential election, which is scheduled for November 8.

    Bank officials say the calendar for the selection process was set by the executive board and is in keeping with past practices at the Bank.

    “The member states are happy with the overall picture of the World Bank and they don’t want to change its leadership at this time even if there are management challenges inside and if the morale is very low,” said Ian Solomon, a former US executive director at the Bank and chief executive of consulting firm SolomonGlobal.

    Kim’s critics hope the member states will at least be aware of the discontent in the air.

    “There’s been enough questions raised about Dr Kim that the board could make clear that there are certain things they expect him to do and certain things they expect him to stop doing,” said Cadario. AFP



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