New world bank president appointment could have far-reaching implications – by Tariq Siraj

WBG

Photo: freemalaysiatoday.com

The World Bank will begin the search and selection process for a new president in February after President Jim Yong Kim’s surprise resignation last week.

Kim has spent the best part of 30 years as a leading light in the development of the world health infrastructure. He founded Partners in Health, oversaw the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS work with incredible success, and he led academic initiatives at Harvard and Dartmouth in the US.   At the World Bank had been in the role since 2012, was re-appointed for a second term and has generally been considered a success in the role.

So, with all this in mind, it is hard to begrudge him seeking a new challenge to join a private investment firm where he will focus on infrastructure investments in developing countries.

The issue is that Kim’s resignation has raised concerns among the international development community that the United States — which traditionally dictates who runs the organization — will seek to replace Kim with someone less supportive of financing climate change projects. The Trump administration could also exacerbate tensions with China by selecting someone sure to reduce the WBs lending to Beijing.

The World bank is political by its nature and history – but at a time when the world is more polarized, where populist governments are coming more and more to the fore and where aid and development budgets are more under threat than ever, it would be worrying if the appointment of the World Bank President was politicised to the degree that it effectively minimises World Bank influence and feeds into trade war, isolationist and foreign-aid budget reduction policies.

The World Bank provides billions of Dollars in loans each year to help countries develop capital projects and has a stated aim to eradicate poverty, combat disease, reduce child mortality, promote gender equality and many others.

Many are demanding the bank shake off the historic U.S. stronghold over the appointment process and, in a statement, the bank’s board has affirmed its commitment to an open, merit-based, and transparent appointment system.

A new process agreed in 2011 where the board itself shortlists candidates and has the final say on selection should allow for an inclusive candidate. This appointment and the direction of the World Bank over the next few years will be interesting to watch – to say the least.

-          Tariq


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