Dr. Jim Yong Kim: Obama’s great pick for World Bank Chief. Can he turn the ship around?
Who is Jim Kim? President Obama’s pick to head the World Bank, is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, a Korean-born American, and President of Dartmouth College. Kim is a great choice. He’s an outsider – not one of the big-finance moguls and Washington insiders that have run the show at the World Bank. Dr. Kim is a physician but also earned a Ph.D. in anthropology at Harvard. In fact, his principal expertise lies in the field of public health especially in poor nations.
He has also has first hand knowledge of the desperate needs of the poor, both in terms of economics and medical care. Although member nations have to vote (there is some reticence to appoint yet another American), he is likely to be elected. Dr. Kim’s as co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH) pioneered efforts to bring high quality health care to extremely poor nations including Haiti, Peru, Rwanda, and Lesotho. Partners’ aim is not merely to deliver care, but to build the capacity of such nations to do so. As head of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS program, Kim launched the 3 by 5 Initiative, which provided life saving AIDS drugs to 3 million people in the mid 2000’s.
There is another reason to be pleased. The man has great spirit, a true Renaissance person, who found a way to combine his medical degree and his passion for anthropology in the service of humanity. To get a first hand glimpse click on
this video: http://roadtripnation.com/JimYongKim.
Finally, the man has a sense of humor, is a space rapper and can dance!!!! See the action here.
A challenge to the World Bank paradigm? The World Bank’s historical approach to investment can be summed up as follows: (1) top-down (2) bigger is better (3) small is inefficient (4) GDP growth is everything. As evident from Kim’s writings, he doesn’t buy it. Here are a few quotes:
- “The studies in this book present evidence that the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact –worsened the lives of millions of women and men.” From Dying for Growth.
- “…I recognize that economic growth is vital to generate resources for investment in health, education and public goods. Every country must follow its own path to growth, but our collective mission must be to ensure that a new generation of low and middle-income countries enjoys sustainable economic growth that generates opportunities for all citizens.” (Recent piece published by Administration with Kim’s nomination).
I would put it this way: Economic growth is not enough; it’s the nature of growth and investment that counts. There is a big difference between a local market economy providing for community needs, and an invasive corporate economy that extracts resources and capital, degrades the environment and tramples traditional economies and culture.
Land grabs and coal power: Although the Bank repeatedly pledges to address poverty and curb environmental threats, it continues to invest in projects that have the opposite effect. For example, a recent report by the U.S.-based Oakland Institute implicates the World Bank Group in the promotion of “land grabs” — especially in Africa — by large institutional investors. The acquisitions fail to deliver on promises, and instead are forcing thousands of purchases of land, often by large institutional investors, are mainly unregulated, produce few of the promised benefits to local people, and “instead are forcing thousands of small farming communities off ancestral land, creating serious food insecurity and driving environmental destruction.” In addition, the Bank has recently funded environmentally degrading projects such as a coal burning power plant in Kosovo and one in South Africa.
Healing: As a medical doctor, Jim Yong Kim took the Hippocratic Oath, “to do no harm.” If he is true to the oath, he will take immediate steps to stop such destructive investments. We also hope that he will undertake the difficult task of redirecting the Bank’s investment strategies to promote development that is locally-based, culturally compatible, and ecologically sustainable. This approach encourages entrepreneurialism and economic development that provides jobs and strengthens community.
Examples of this approach are micro-loans to support local agricultural and local production businesses. For example, the Grameen Bank which provides micro-loans to local businesses in poor areas, is perhaps a good model for the World Bank. (See this wonderful speech by the founder and outgoing head of Grameen and Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus explaining the history of this amazing venture).
To close, let’s hope that Kim is not too humble to challenge the Bank’s ingrained top-down approach to investment. It’s a big ship to turn around.