Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala: decision not merit-based

Jim Yong Kim appointed new World Bank president

GMT 14:12 2012 Tuesday ,17 April

Arab Today, arab today Jim Yong Kim appointed new World Bank president

Jim Yong Kim, Obama's Nominee, Selected As World Bank President
Washington - Agencies

Jim Yong Kim, Obama's Nominee, Selected As World Bank President The World Bank has named Korean-born US doctor Jim Yong Kim as its new president amid criticism that the role had once more gone to a US-nominated candidate. The 52-year-old president of the US's presitigous Dartmouth College beat Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the post, the first time in the World Bank's history that the US candidate has faced a serious challenge.
Kim was widely expected to clinch the job, as he had the backing of the US, Europe, Japan and Canada, which between them command a majority of votes among the World Bank's executive directors. But sources close to the process claimed there had been "frantic arm-twisting" in a bid to achieve unanimity.
Insiders claimed Okonjo-Iweala was urged to stand down on Sunday night after it emerged she could muster 19 percent of the votes, because senior Bank decision-makers felt it would expose divisions among its member states. Instead, the Nigerian finance minister insisted on remaining in the race.
Before the announcement, Okonjo-Iweala said: "You know this thing is not really being decided on merit."
Brazilian and South African government officials reiterated their support for her on Monday – potentially representing about 5 percent of the votes at the meeting. It is understood that there was no formal vote.
Kim, born in Seoul, South Korea, was nominated by Barack Obama in March to replace current president Robert Zoellick. The US president's choice of a public health expert was a surprise: candidates nominated to run the bank usually come from the financial world.
The new leader said in an interview with the BBC that capitalist "market-based growth is a priority for every single country".
He said that was the best way to create jobs and lift people out of poverty.
The qualified physician told the BBC that while he may lack political know-how, his background in medicine would help him in his new role.
He explained that he worked for more than 25 years in developing countries. At the same time, he has been lauded for his pioneering role in treating HIV/Aids and reducing the impact of tuberculosis in the developing world.
"I am a physician. Physicians work on evidence, rather than working from a single ideology, rather than working from a particular political point-of-view," he said.
He said that he would take into account the cultural and social peculiarities of various regions to ensure that the World Bank's various schemes achieved the desired results.
"If we can focus on the evidence of what is actually working and adapt those evidence-based interventions to local context, I think we can be very successful."
The 52-year-old Korean-American will succeed the current World Bank head Robert Zoellick, and start serving a five-year term from 1 July.
Both Zoellick and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner supported his nomination.
"His rigorous, science-based drive for results will be invaluable for the World Bank Group as it modernises to better serve client countries in overcoming poverty," said Zoellick.
The presidency has gone to a US candidate since the organisation was founded at the Bretton Woods conference at the close of the second world war. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), its sister organisation, has always been run by a European.
The US backed Frances' former finance minister Christine Lagarde for the top role at the IMF last year after the shock resignation of Dominique Strauss Kahn. In return, Kim received Europe's backing for the World Bank job.
In recent years, the organisations have faced growing criticism over a perceived US/European duopoly.
Before Kim was confirmed as bank president, the South African finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, said there was a need to "look beyond the verbiage of democracy and the claims to democratic process and ask whether in substantive terms the institution has met the democratic test".
Although she had always expected her challenge to the US's nomination to fail, Okonjo-Iweala said: "It is voting with political weight and shares, and therefore the United States will get it."
She added: "We have won important victories ... We have shown what is possible. Our credible and merit-based challenge to a long-standing and unfair tradition will ensure the process of choosing a World Bank president will never be the same again. The hands of the clock cannot be turned back."
Welcoming the selection of Kim, Obama said the process had been "open and transparent" and praised the winning candidate as an inclusive leader. "I appreciate the strong support offered to Dr Kim from leaders around the world," Obama said.
A third candidate, Colombia's former finance minister José Antonio Ocampo, pulled out on Friday, calling the process a "political-oriented exercise".

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