Monday, April 16, 2012

Africa is screwed (Jim Yong Kim edition)

I had the displeasure of learning today that Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth and founder of a successful HIV/AIDS groups, will become the president of the World Bank this summer.

I was routing for Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, who was nominated in a rebellious act. Traditionally, the World Bank president has been an American and Okonjo-Iweala's nomination bucked that trend.

Okonjo-Iweala has experience in both economics and the World Bank while Kim does not. His list of qualifications ends with a rim shot. Don't get me wrong, he's a smart guy, but the World Bank is completely outside his area of knowledge. He has no experience with development, banking, policy or economics.

Lant Pritchett, professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was less kind when Kim was nominated. From Forbes:

“There is no way you can say with a straight face that this man is more qualified to head the World Bank than Ngozi,” insists Pritchett. Okonjo-Iweala has tackled corruption in Nigeria and because she has worked inside the Bank and as the Bank’s government counterpart in a developing country with complex problems, Pritchett insists she has precisely the kind of experience needed in a World Bank leader.

“At best, Kim has worked with ministers of health, but they are in one of many, many government agencies,” says Pritchett. “A minister of finance has to make hard choices across sectors. Having the experience of a minister of finance is the optimal experience for being president of the World Bank.” Adds Pritchett, nominating Kim “is like picking the short stop for the New York Yankees out of the scrub leagues.”


For Pritchett, there is an important distinction between the kind of work Kim has done, which he calls “charity work,” and the complex tasks engaged in by the World Bank. “Development is about countries becoming prosperous, democratic and capable, like being able to deliver the mail, having police forces that work and kids who get educated,” says Pritchett. “Charity work is helping people cope with the fact that they live in places where they don’t have those things.”
It's worse than Kim simply being clueless on what to do. Bill Easterly collected some quotations on growth from papers co-authored by Kim, and it's not pretty. Here's one:
Through a series of specific cases, we have demonstrated how growth – the market-led economic growth sought by governments, the growth in profits celebrated by businesses, and the growth in power and influence of transnational financial and corporate interests – often comes at the expense of the disenfranchised and vulnerable… As the imperatives of growth at any cost increasingly determine economic and social policy and the behavior of global corporations, more people join the ranks of the poor and greater numbers suffer and die.
Electing a World Bank president that believes growth is harmful to the poor is like putting a Jehovah's Witness in charge of the Red Cross. This negligent error will not harm the people capable of reading this blog, but it will rob the world's poor of a chance at a better like.

1 comment:

  1. Good news is the globes capitalist economy has made room for a slew of multilateral development banks, of which the World Bank is only one. Also, the development programs of the World Bank are among a "constellation" of economic factors affecting Africa and the world.

    Kim will be influential, for sure, but he is one man.