Although President Barack Obama waited until the last day to announce the US nomination for the office of World Bank President, as soon as he did the full weight of the US government was thrown into an active campaign for that candidate, Dr Jim Yong Kim, an Asian-American, Empowered Newswire reports.
But no official of the Nigerian government has issued any statement in support of Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who will be interviewed for the World Bank presidency alongside Colombian nominee Jose Antonio Ocampo and the American nominee.
Besides Okonjo-Iweala’s appearance in South Africa on Friday to underline her presence in the race just before Obama’s announcement, presidency and federal government officials, including the Foreign Affairs Ministry, have remained silent, sending curious signals about the real attitude of the federal government.
Sources also said that the denial by Paul Nwabuikwu, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s official spokesperson, on Wednesday does not help matters; two days later, the Finance Minister herself was ready to start her campaign.
In Washington DC over the weekend, the White House started releasing different statements of support for Obama’s choice including one from an African head of state, Rwandan Paul Kagame, a noted and respectable voice in the continent.
World Bank sources said Kagame’s immediate support of the US choice already shows a crack in the African camp, and also indicates the lack of an active support from the Nigerian federal government.
Although World Bank sources close to the Board of Directors who will make the final decision said it will be an uphill task to overcome Obama’s choice, there are many within and outside the Bank who see College President Dr. Kim as a notable development activist especially in the medical and health areas, but who lacks the broader experience that the World Bank President should normally possess.
A top World Bank source said yesterday that the “global development community have already started tearing away at President Obama’s choice,” adding that “if you look at it purely on the merit, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has the edge.”
The decision of the bank’s Board of Directors which is made up of 25 members would be by consensus, although the US and European countries already have a majority. The US alone has about 15% voting power on the board, while Nigeria has less than 1%.
Despite the massive support that the US candidate, Jim Yong Kim, is expected to enjoy among the board of directors, the US government is not leaving any stone unturned in their campaign for him.
For instance top US government officials said Kim would soon embark on a global tour to nation’s capital seeking support of governments with the full weight of American diplomats behind him.
Besides, over the weekend, the White House released statements of support from the US Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner, former President Bill Clinton, Kagame of Rwanda and even Prof Jeff Sachs, who had earlier shown active interests in the position.
In the White House release, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said, “I was delighted to learn that Jim Kim has been nominated for this post, as he is a true friend of Africa and well known for his decade of work to support us in developing an efficient health system in Rwanda.”
Kagame, who is widely respected within and outside Africa, added that Kim is “not only a physician and a leader who knows what it takes to address poverty, but also a genuinely good person. President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Kim as President of the World Bank is a welcome one, and should resonate well with the many men and women who are working to transform lives around the world."
But even among the Americans in the development community, some voices have started speaking in support of Okonjo-Iweala.
For instance the Center for Global Development based in the US capital, which is said to have connections with the Nigerian Finance Minister said over the weekend on its website that “the US had a chance to lead. It abdicated that chance to play domestic politics and put forward a US nominee who is manifestly less qualified to be head of the World Bank than the alternative candidate nominated by African countries: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.”
In the opinion written by Lant Pritchett, a professor of International Development from Harvard University, the ideal candidate for World Bank president should have some specific experience, all of which Okonjo-Iweala already possesses.
• some experience in government and the process of policy-making (as the World Bank’s clients are all governments),
• some acquaintance with economic policy and policy making—including the tough choices like allocation of resources across uses,
• some knowledge of finance (it is, after all, a bank that makes income from lending money),
• perhaps some management experience in a multilateral organization.
• Exposure to the breadth of development issues.
Pritchett noted that the US nominee, Dr Jim Yong Kim “has no experience in government. He has been engaged in development as an academic and through NGOs.”
The Harvard professor added that Dr. Kim “has worked exclusively on health issues (rightly, as he is a physician) and never been in position of responsibility about economic policy. Health was just one of many sectors for which Ngozi had to allocate budgets and promote performance.”Besides, the argument continued, the only thing that the US nominee has ahead of Nigeria’s Finance Minister is the US passport.
Wrote Pritchett: “Jim holds an American passport. Ngozi is a Nigerian woman. In this day and age, is that still really all it takes?
Continuing, the Harvard scholar said in the area of wide exposure “there is a massive difference between doing development work and doing charity work to mitigate the consequences of the lack of development. Ngozi has done development work in many settings and in many positions both in Nigeria and within the World Bank. Jim deserves praise for having devoted his time, attention and expertise in medicine to improve the health care for people in the developing world—which is certainly one component of development—but his development experience is limited to one sector.”
Below are also the other supporting views put out by the White House for its nominee:
Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner
“Jim Yong Kim is exceptionally well qualified to serve as President of the World Bank. He is an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe. But Jim will bring more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems. Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion. And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”
Former President Bill Clinton
"Jim Kim is an inspired and outstanding choice to lead the World Bank based on his years of commitment and leadership to development and particularly health care and AIDS treatment across the world. Among his many accomplishments, his work with my good friend Paul Farmer to bring hope and health care to nations from Haiti to Peru to Malawi through Partners in Health has been pioneering, exceptional and effective. He will be the most experienced development expert to ever take the helm of the World Bank and I compliment President Obama for putting that type of proven commitment to global development at the top of his criteria for choosing the World Bank’s next leader."
Rwandan President Paul Kagame
“I was delighted to learn that Jim Kim has been nominated for this post, as he is a true friend of Africa and well known for his decade of work to support us in developing an efficient health system in Rwanda. He’s not only a physician and a leader who knows what it takes to address poverty, but also a genuinely good person. President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Kim as President of the World Bank is a welcome one, and should resonate well with the many men and women who are working to transform lives around the world."
Paul Farmer, MD, PhD
“Jim Yong Kim is an outstanding choice for the presidency of the World Bank. Having had the good fortune to train with Jim at Harvard, and to see him work in settings from inner-city Boston to the slums of Peru, from Haiti to Rwanda to the prisons of Siberia, I know that for three decades Jim has committed himself to breaking the cycle of poverty and disease. This has been his goal as a physician, a teacher, a policy maker, and a university president; it was ever his goal as a founder and director of Partners In Health, which now operates in more than a dozen countries and informs his teaching and writing. He has worked in rural villages and squatter settlements just as he has worked in the halls of power and privilege. Again and again, we his friends and colleagues have seen Jim imagine a better future, one that harnesses new technologies and older but sound notions of justice and equity, and links this vision to much more than talk and reports and studies. Jim is all about delivery and about delivering on promises often made but too seldom kept. I can think of no one more able to help families, communities, and entire nations break out of poverty, which is the stated goal of the World Bank. As poverty continues to claim lives, and as inequality deepens, the Bank--and other institutions charged with lessening poverty--need bold and experienced thinkers and implementers like Jim Kim. Alas, he's one of a kind.”
“Jim Kim is a superb nominee for WB. I support him 100%. I thank all who supported me and know they'll be very pleased with today's news.” – via Twitter