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The World Bank’s Recipe for Irrelevance

PHILADELPHIA – World Bank President Jim Yong Kim’s nomination for a second term is inexorably moving forward with a lack of transparency that has become all too typical. Many observers are once again gnashing their teeth at the United States’ continued monopoly over the top post, despite the poor performance of past US nominees. As the late Yogi Berra once put it, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

The US has been particularly brazen in subverting the nomination process to ensure Kim’s re-appointment. For starters, despite having another ten months left in his first term, Kim – surely with the US government’s blessing – asked the Bank’s Executive Board to accelerate the appointment process. The Board agreed – with no notable dissent – and even shortened the selection process to a mere three weeks.

A compressed schedule makes it difficult for World Bank members to rally around an alternative candidate. And Kim already had a head start, after quietly lobbying member governments at the G7 summit in Japan this May and in personal visits to China and India in recent months.

Moreover, as the incumbent, Kim can grant favors to win support: make loans that play to influential shareholders’ pet preferences, promise certain countries spots on the leadership roster, and stamp the Bank’s imprimatur on particular governments’ own domestic initiatives. Given the contents of Kim’s political toolkit, this match was never going to be played on a level field.