The developmental world is abuzz with news of President Barack Obama’s nominee for the next World Bank president. Jim Yong Kim, the current president of Dartmouth and a well-respected world health expert, has been tagged to lead the international financial institution following the departure of current president, Robert Zoellick. Although Kim’s position hasn’t been secured, tradition has it that Europeans pick the leader of the International Monetary Fund, while Americans pick the leader of the World Bank. This practice has not gone without criticism.
Obama’s choice of Jim Kim did, however, come as a surprise for pretty much everybody who cares about the World Bank. Past leaders of the World Bank have all had careers rooted in the finance sector. Jim Kim has not. The result is a polarizing debate over whether Kim can be a successful leader. Some say he lacks the political shrewdness and diplomacy it takes to head such a large organization. They warn that his lack of a background in economics could lead the World Bank to overstepping its mandate, and some have put his record of managing Dartmouth to question. Others consider him a breath of fresh air, someone who actually understands the needs of a the developing world, someone with the grit to reign in the governance of the World Bank.
It’s hard to say what kind of leader he will or won’t be, but if being able spit fire and flow is any measure of leadership abilities, then he seems far ahead of the pack.