Jim Yong Kim

President of World Bank

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  • In-Country Power
  • International Power
  • Respect
  • Military Strength
  • Intelligence
  • Special Skill: Poverty Pile-Driver

Official Stats

  • Official Title: President
  • Government: N/A
  • Years Left in Office: To 2017; re-election possible
  • Political Classification:
  • Education: A.B from Brown, M.D. and PhD from Harvard
  • Age: 64 (born December 7, 1959)

Jim Yong Kim Facts and Information

Important Points

  • Succeeded Robert Zoellick as president of the World Bank in July 1, 2012.
  • Responsible for a mix of 50 billion dollar per year global financing programs and ideas to improve living standards and eliminate poverty.
  • First World Bank President whose background is in public health and not politics or finance.
  • Becomes President at a time when the World Bank is criticized for encouraging globalization, fostering projects that damage the environment and supporting regimes with poor civil rights.

The Rundown

So you wanna end world poverty? Jim Yong Kim is the man with the plan. His responsibilities with the World Bank are to promote foreign investment, international trade and capital investment to make the world a better place to live.  How about that for a job description!

If you thought Jim Yong Kim was Korean, think again! He is just like the 11 prior World Bank Presidents - American. President Obama nominated Kim to be the 12th President, continuing the American tradition. Not very worldly, you say? Well, the U.S. does provide the highest percentage of World Bank donations. 

While it’s no surprise that the leader of the World Bank is an American, what is interesting is how Kim is different from former World Bank presidents.  The differences include his Korean-American heritage, medical training, anthropology scholarship and world health background. So the point is that this President of the World Bank is not a banker, he’s a world health expert. Is this a good thing? Does keeping people healthy mean you know how to keep world economies healthy? It’s still early to tell, but there is a hope that Kim can breathe new life into World Bank efforts to promote economic growth.   

Prior to becoming World Bank president, Dr. Kim served as president of Dartmouth College. (check out his cool Dartmouth talent show video below).  He is a co-founder of Partners In Health and a former director of the HIV/AIDS Department at the World Health Organization. He earned an M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1991 and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University in 1993.  His commitment to treating infectious diseases in resource-poor parts of the world earned him the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2003.

So what are Kim’s policies for the World Bank? Kim’s experience at the World Health Organization is that economic growth often comes from improved health care. He is likely to continue this emphasis at the World Bank. This doesn’t mean that other investment areas related to poverty reduction such as agriculture, industry/trade, water resources and energy aren’t important. While he has only been President for a few months it is anticipated there will be a greater emphasis on health and education systems as a catalyst for economic development.
At this point, plaidfans, it a good idea to review the history of the World Bank. Turns out that there are different perspectives of how to reduce poverty across the planet. Since there is no “world” view, World Bank decisions can be controversial or have unintended consequences such as damaging the environment - see the next section below on World Bank history for some examples. You may also want to check out the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank’s sister organization at http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm

Given the title of the ‘World Bank’ you would back having ATM machines on every corner of the globe. The World Bank is not really a bank, but more a source of development assistance. It was started in 1944 along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bring a mix of financing programs and ideas to improve living standards and eliminate the worst forms of poverty. The Bank is like a cooperative in which 188 member countries are shareholders.  The World Bank raises money in several different ways to provide loans and grants to developing and poor countries.

If you are not sure what the difference is between the World Bank and the IMF, you are not alone. Even the famous economist, John Maynard Keynes, admitted that he was confused by the names: he thought the Fund should be called a bank, and the Bank should be called a fund.  Since the actual differences can be somewhat mixed we have provided the comparison table below.

World Bank International Monetary Fund
Origin Both Started in 1944, known as Brenton Woods Organizations
Membership 188 countries
Economics Related to structure within a country. Seeks to promote the economic development of the world’s poorer countries Concerned with macroeconomics issues between countries. Concerned with balance of payment issues, international trade policy, and exchange rates.
Time Frame Long term loans for distressed economy Short term loans to resolve cyclical economic problems.
Focus Assists developing countries through long-term financing of development projects and program Assists all members—both industrial and developing countries—that find themselves in temporary balance of payments difficulties by providing short- to medium-term credits.
Funding Source Acquires most of its financial resources by borrowing on the international bond market. Draws its financial resources principally from the quota subscriptions of its member countries.
Strategy Both major advocates of the free market to solve many global economic problems.
Founding principle Need for collective action to eliminate poverty. Need for collective action on the international level for financial stability.
Leadership By convention, top job always gone to United States. By convention, top job always gone to a European.

Since 1944 the World Bank has funded 11,000 projects in over 100 countries. Check out the World Bank website to get a complete list of development programs that ran the gamut (http://www.worldbank.org/projects) from agriculture, industry/trade, transportation, telecommunications, finance, water resources and energy to public administration and where they are located. 

It’s also important to note that the World Bank decisions are often criticized and World Bank street protests have been common for the last 10 years.  One criticism concerns the types of development projects funded. Many infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank Group have social and environmental implications for the populations in the affected areas. For example, World Bank-funded construction of hydroelectric dams in various countries has resulted in the displacement of indigenous peoples of the area. Another criticism is that the World Bank gives loans to impoverished countries that really can’t afford to pay them back. In addition, many of these countries are so corrupt or managed by dictators that any investment is useless until they can develop a working economic system. Since 2000, World Bank criticism has focused of the problems associated with globalization, in particular, that a few economically powerful countries are taking advantage of smaller poorer countries by exploiting their resources and forcing them to accept free market reforms.

Which brings us back full circle to Dr Kim. Dr Kim represents a new type of World Bank President that may be able to bridge the have/have-not gap.  Unlike past World Bank presidents, Kim was selected due to his global experience rather than finance or past US government background. Since the world still has 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty let’s hope he succeeds.

Video Interviews

Kim Yong Kim interview for the Wall Street Journal

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