WASHINGTON: Jim Yong Kim, the US nominee to lead the World Bank, will win broad international support despite an unprecedented challenge by candidates from emerging economies, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in an interview.
Washington's hold on the World Bank presidency is being contested for the first time by candidates from emerging economies. Two respected economists and diplomats, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, have been nominated.
Kim, a Korean-American health expert, is well known among development experts for his work in fighting HIV/AIDS and bringing healthcare to the poor. President Barack Obama nominated him for World Bank president on Friday.
“The president was looking for a candidate who could command broad support across the world,” Geithner told Reuters in an interview released on Saturday. “That's very important, because we don't make this decision alone.”
“Dr. Kim's mix of skills will be particularly compelling to the bank at this time and I think the world will be very impressed with him,” he said.
Emerging economies such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Russia have sought to use their growing economic clout to pry open the selection process for the heads of the World Bank and its sister organisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The World Bank has always been headed by an American and the IMF by a European since their inception after World War Two.
Geithner said it was not a surprise that candidates from other countries had been nominated after a 2009 agreement by leaders of the Group of 20 nations for an open and transparent process to select leaders of the two institutions.
“We expected that to happen and think it is healthy for the institution as a whole,” Geithner said. “But I can tell you from my conversations with developing and developed countries, I am confident he (Kim) will win broad support.”
US officials have acknowledged that giving up the World Bank presidency would make it difficult for the White House to obtain funding from Congress for the global lender, especially with lawmakers worried about mounting budget deficits.
The United States has also argued that it does not head any other global organisation.
After a broad search that looked at US bankers, economists and politicians, Obama settled on Kim because the Dartmouth College president has a deep commitment to development issues, Geithner said.
In particular, he cited Kim's experience in programmes to fight HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in impoverished nations, which he said demonstrated that the nominee could get things done in tough environments.
In coming weeks, Kim will visit nations in Africa, Asia and Latin America to try to convince them he is the best candidate to lead the poverty-fighting institution, US officials said. - Reuters