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Kim Watch: The Knives Flash
Following the Financial Times’ story on Monday about the ongoing chaos at the World Bank, the paper followed up with an editorial yesterday. What Monday’s report did not say directly, the commentary says straight out: Jim Kim is not up to the job.
Jim Yong Kim should get a grip on the troubled institution
When Jim Yong Kim was appointed to head the World Bank he was hailed as an inspired choice who would help to renew its purpose. Two years later, the bank is in turmoil and there are growing doubts about Mr Kim’s grip. Far from restoring its relevance, he has unleashed a restructuring hell that has demoralised staff and entrenched doubts about its long-term role.
Mr Kim still has time to turn the bank round. But he will need to make it far clearer what he is trying to do. Too often, the instinct to reorganise is a substitute for strategy. With this week’s spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, it is the right moment for Mr Kim to spell out the method behind the apparent madness.
… morale is at rock-bottom. Mr Kim has fired several senior managers and even reinstated ones that he has fired. The top 48 division heads have been asked to reapply for their jobs. Meanwhile, the bank is crawling with overlapping consultancies. It is one thing to have McKinsey advising you. It is quite another to have former UK prime minister Tony Blair’s business entering the equation. The latter’s inclusion demands explanation.
All of these developments come amid Mr Kim’s drive to cut costs by $400m in the next three years. Yet there is a feeling among staff that Mr Kim himself is exempt from the austerity. The FT has reported that Mr Kim has taken 13 trips on private jets. There may have been no commercial flights available, as Mr Kim says. But the perception is damaging.
Removing Mr Kim at this stage would only add to the confusion. He must now make the best of it. But his self-generated problems underline why such jobs ought to be filled on merit. It makes no sense in today’s world for the US to retain the stale bargain whereby it appoints the World Bank president and Europe has first right to choose the IMF’s managing director.
If there is a silver lining to the bank’s turmoil, it is this: the Bretton Woods institutions belong to the world. From now on, they must be headed by the best people available. [Emphasis added, happily]
To date criticisms of Kim voiced by various people have focused on his specific policy and managerial choices, but sources at the Bank tell me that underlying all of the unrest is the understanding that Kim is an arrogant, manipulative liar who has little real expertise in running an institution.
But then, we have known that at Dartmouth for close to five years now, n’est-ce pas?
Another example is the technophile Mr Kim’s unhappiness, when he first arrived at the bank, with its Lotus Notes email system. At considerable expense, he alone was switched over to Microsoft Outlook. The bank says it was a trial for eventually switching all of its staff and declined to disclose the cost.
Jim Kim a technophile? Ha. But, give the guy credit. He’s still a persuasive salesman.
Addendum: English cartoonist Kipper Williams saw where things were heading when Kim was chosen to run the World Bank:
Addendum: In David Brooks’ column in the Times he talks about the power of curiosity and about people who dig deeper in understanding their subject. He refers to the contrasting type of person — a type that we all recognize:
If you are primarily motivated to make money, you just need to get as much information as you need to do your job. You don’t have time for deep dives into abstract matters. You certainly don’t want to let people know how confused you are by something, or how shallow your knowledge is in certain areas. You want to project an image of mastery and omniscience.
On Wall Street, as in some other areas of the modern economy that I could mention, this attitude leads to a culture of knowingness. People learn to bluff their way through, day to day.
Some folks get through all of life like this; for others, there is a day when the music stops.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own interviews, a review of…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…