New World Bank President: Jim Yong Kim

Jim Yong Kim

Jim Yong Kim

Today the White House announced their nominee as the new World Bank President: Jim Yong Kim, M.D., Ph.D.  Breaking with decades of tradition, Mr. Kim has no background in economics or finance, and only a narrow knowledge of economic development.  (Economist Larry Summers was widely believed to be lobbying hard for the World Bank position.)

This is a formula for disaster.  Mr. Kim has an M.D. and a Ph.D. in anthropology.  Over the years the most important mission of the World Bank has been making development loans to less developed countries.  If we’re lucky, Mr. Kim will rely on the Bank’s excellent economics and finance staff for advice outside his field of expertise.  But the deeper mystery is why he was nominated in the first place.

There’s a clue in some background material from the March 23 Wall Street Journal:

“Dr. Kim, 52 years old, immigrated to the U.S. at age five, earned an undergraduate degree from Brown University and picked up a medical degree and doctorate in anthropology at Harvard University. … A senior Obama administration official said Friday that Dr. Kim won over Mr. Obama and other U.S. officials during interviews for the job by discussing his experience working directly inside villages and getting mud between his toes in some of the world’s poorest countries, from Haiti to Rwanda. His experience at the World Health Organization also gave him diplomatic experience in complicated environments, the official said.”

In other words, Mr. Obama recognized a fellow community organizer in Mr. Kim.  Swell.