In a surprise to many development and finance experts here on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, a relatively unknown but highly regarded international health specialist to become the next president of the World Bank.
"It's time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency," Obama said as he introduced Korean-born Kim, a co-founder of Partners in Health who currently serves as president of Dartmouth College, in a brief appearance in the White House Rose Garden.
If approved by the bank's governing board, Kim, who immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of five and, among other posts, headed the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department, will succeed Robert Zoellick as the head of the world's biggest multilateral development institution.
But for the first time in the bank's history, it appears that the U.S. nominee will face two strong challengers. The Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who served as the bank's managing director from 2007 to 2011, was formally nominated by South Africa earlier this week.
José Antonio Ocampo, who has served as U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and as Colombia's finance minister, was also nominated, after a period of much speculation.
Another candidate, Columbia University's Earth Institute president Jeffrey Sachs, withdrew from contention shortly after Kim's nomination was announced.
"I congratulate the administration for nominating a world-class development leader for this position," Sachs, who was nominated by at least three poor countries – Bhutan, Haiti and Timor Leste – and who had openly campaigned for the job, said in a statement. "I support his nomination 100 percent."
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