Reporter Journal / Chen Weihua

Bank chief favors merit in hiring

By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA) Updated: 2017-11-21 12:08

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim believes the next president of the bank should be decided on merit rather than nationality.

The international financial institution formed in 1945 has always been headed by an American, just as the International Monetary Fund is always headed by a European. The unwritten rule has drawn sharp criticism, especially from the developing world.

While saying that he will have no influence over who will be the next World Bank president, Kim said the bank's board should choose the best candidate.

"I think leadership could come from anywhere," said Kim, who became the 12th World Bank president in 2012. The bank's main mission is to tackle global poverty and health issues.

Born in South Korea in 1959, Kim immigrated with his family to the US at the age of 5 and grew up in Muscatine, Iowa.

He served as the president of Dartmouth College from 2009 to 2012 before becoming the World Bank president. Before that, he had worked at the World Health Organization. He was a co-founder and executive director of Partners In Health, and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Kim believes the issue has to be resolved despite the informal division of positions in the world in the past 70 years.

"So we have to decide how that's going to work. Are we doing away with that and making every position open for everyone? Maybe, but as they said, that's above my pay grade in terms of deciding," he said on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington after giving formal remarks on global economic trends.

"I think that no matter what your citizenship is, if you care about these issues, if you care not to learn languages, if you care not to spend time in Africa, South Asia, that whatever your nationality, your ability to embrace the entire world should be the top criterion for becoming president of the World Bank," he said.

In the Cold War era, the World Bank was used as a tool by the US to counter the Soviet Union, and the US also by far had the largest investment in the bank. But the Cold War is long over, and the US paid-in-capital also has dropped from 74 percent in 1950 to 18 percent in recent years, according to Michael Clemens, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Global Development.

Clemens and many others have supported Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who served as Nigerian finance minister and also managing director of the World Bank, for the bank's president.

"If this problem is left unresolved, it will threaten the relevance and legitimacy of the world's leading development institution," Clemens wrote in September 2016, when it was announced that Kim would receive a second five-year term, starting July 1, 2017.

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