World Bank Resignation Fires Up Rumor Mill

Speculation about who US President Donald Trump will pick to head the World Bank.

Jim Yong Kim’s surprise early resignation as president of the World Bank has resulted in speculation­—and fear—about how this will impact the world’s largest development bank. Was Kim coerced into the decision, and does his move to join the private sector indicate a belief that this is a more effective route to tackling global development challenges?

“I certainly don’t put much weight on the decision being an indictment of the bank itself or a repudiation of its publicly oriented mission,” states Scott Morris, senior fellow and director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development. “There’s a role for private sector–led development, but that takes nothing away from the critical work the bank is doing with governments across a range of issues.”

When Kim first assumed office in 2012, it was the first time that credible emerging market candidates were fielded—namely, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Colombia’s former finance minister, José Antonio Ocampo—amid criticism over the US/European leadership duopoly of the World Bank and IMF.

Since the inception of the World Bank, Europe has backed the US choice of an American to head it, while the US in return leaves Europe to pick a European to head the IMF—a tradition that now seems unnecessary and outdated.

US President Donald Trump’s anti-multilateral stance and antagonism toward Europe will perhaps see the end to this “gentlemen’s agreement,” and it remains to be seen if the Trump administration will resist the urge to nominate a lackey in favor of a globally respected candidate, and whether a nonfunding stick will be wielded.

An email from the World Bank regarding the selection of a new president indicates the organization will protect its multilateral mission. It states that candidates should have the ability to articulate a clear vision of the World Bank Group’s development mission; have a firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation; and show impartiality and objectivity in the performance of the responsibilities of the position. Submissions are being accepted between February 7 and March 14.