David Blanchflower: Better match for the Bank than Dartmouth

  • @D_Blanchflower

I arrived back in Blighty this morning to find the wires full of the news that my boss at Dartmouth College, Dr Jim Yong Kim, whom I know pretty well, had been nominated by President Obama to replace Robert Zoellick as president of the World Bank.

This was made official soon afterwards in a ceremony at the White House. Also in attendance were the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner (a Dartmouth alumnus), who ruled themselves out as contenders and supported the nomination. Almost immediately the development economist Jeffrey Sachs, who had nominated himself as a candidate, gave his backing to Jim, which was clearly a boost for the administration.

Jim Kim was born in South Korea and moved to the US when he was five. He has an MD from Harvard Medical School in 1991, and a PhD from Harvard University, department of anthropology. He is a former executive director of Partners in Health, a not-for-profit organisation that supports health programmes across the developing world. From 2004 to 2006, he served as director of the World Health Organisation's HIV/Aids department. He was appointed as president of Dartmouth in 2009 and became the first Asian-American president of an Ivy League institution.

There always the sense in the Dartmouth community that he was not going to be with us for long as he was headed for a big international job. I do have a sense that his appointment to the World Bank is a better match given his global interests. Assuming Jim Kim is appointed, which seems likely, although he is not an economist, he will be the first leader of the World Bank with any development experience. He also has the advantage that he is non-white, non-Wasp and he's not Larry Summers. This looks like a good appointment that should draw widespread support especially from the developing world. Their gain is our loss. I wish him well.