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US nominates public health expert of South Korean origin for World Bank top job

Friday, March 23rd 2012 - 23:22 UTC
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Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College is former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the WHO Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College is former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the WHO

The United States has nominated a public health expert of South Korean origin as its candidate for the World Bank presidency, a job emerging market economies are contesting for the first time.

Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, is the former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization.

“I do not think that the World Bank could have a better leader,” Obama said on Friday as he made the announcement with Kim at his side in the White House rose garden.

Angola, Nigeria and South Africa have endorsed the nomination of Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a respected economist and diplomat, as a candidate to take over the bank when Robert Zoellick steps down in June.

“The endorsement is in line with the belief that the appointment of the leadership of the World Bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, should be merit-based, open and transparent,” the three said in a statement.

It was a rare example of unity among countries often at loggerheads as they strive for dominance on the continent.

The United States has held the presidency since the bank's inception after World War Two, and a European has always headed the IMF.

Brazil would like to nominate former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, but it can't do so without Colombia's support, which now looks unlikely. While Ocampo had agreed to stand and Brazil was willing to nominate him, Colombian Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on Thursday his country was instead focusing on a bid for the presidency of the International Labour Organization.

He said that effort had a greater chance of success than going for the World Bank job because Colombia already held the top post at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Russia, a member of the so-called BRIC caucus of large emerging market economies, has refrained from publicly backing a non-US candidate and instead called for a greater role for them in top management at international financial institutions.

Although the World Bank board would like to reach a consensus, Washington retains the largest single voting share and could expect the support of European nations and Japan, the bank's second-largest voting member.

The rise of emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil has put pressure on the United States and Europe to throw open the selection process for both the bank and the IMF. Last year, all of the bank's 187 member countries agreed on a transparent, merit-based process to select a president.

Until Friday, the only candidate officially nominated was US development economist Jeffrey Sachs, who acknowledges he does not have Obama's support. His candidacy is backed by smaller developing countries, such as Bhutan, East Timor, Haiti, Kenya, Guatemala and Chile.

The deadline for nominations is Friday 6 pm Washington time (2200 GMT). The World Bank’s board of member countries will then shortlist the names of three candidates and finalizes its choice by the time of the IMF and World Bank semi-annual meetings on April 21.

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