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Doing Development Better

CAMBRIDGE – Jim Yong Kim’s appointment as World Bank president may have been predictable, given the long-standing tradition that renders the selection an American prerogative. But even the appearance of competition between Kim and the other candidates, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and José Antonio Ocampo, served to expose a deep fissure within the field of development policy, because Kim and his two rivals represented dramatically different approaches.

The vision for which Kim stands is bottom-up. It focuses directly on the poor, and on delivering services – for example, education, health care, and microcredit – to their communities. This tradition’s motto could be, “Development is accomplished one project at a time.”

The other approach, represented by Okonjo-Iweala and Ocampo, takes an economy-wide approach. It emphasizes broad reforms that affect the overall economic environment, and thus focuses on areas such as international trade, finance, macroeconomics, and governance.

Practitioners in the first group idolize NGO leaders like Mohammad Yunus, whose Grameen Bank pioneered microfinance, and Ela Bhatt, a founder of India’s Self-Employment Women’s Association (SEWA). The heroes of the second group are reformist finance or economy ministers such as India’s Manmohan Singh or Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso.