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Kim: Pick Me! Pick Me!

Jim Kim7.jpgIt turns out the the joke is on us, and we should accord Jim Kim the credit that he deserves. In the same week-long period during which he announced that he wants to keep his job as President of the World Bank, the United States, Germany, France, China, Brazil, India, Netherlands, Pakistan and South Korea, Indonesia and several other countries rushed to state publicly that they are in favor of his re-appointment.

How many months of back-room negotiations, stroking and favor-granting did it take our ex-President to pull that off? Recall that his five-year term is only over at the end of next June — and the unusually short period for nominations for candidates is still open until September 14. In fixing the latter date, the Bank’s executive directors gave, get this, their “unanimous support for an open, merit-based and transparent selection, with nominations open to all member countries and transparent consideration of all candidates by the board.” Ha. They might as well just have announced that at the end of a fair and open competitive nomination contest, Jim Kim will be reappointed.

Kim has obviously been preparing this moment for several years; he always has his eye on the next rung on his career ladder.

In the meantime, in news that will elicit knowing smiles in Hanover, the Financial Times has a story noting that the WB budget is growing, not shrinking, despite Kim’s supposed $400 million effort to cost cuts. The Bank has now released information that $143 million of “savings” has been “reinvested” in the institution’s operations, and $62 million of additional costs have been approved to support new lending. Shades of the Kimster’s time in Hanover, when he talked endlessly about the College’s $100 million budget gap and the existential need for College-saving budget cuts, but, in fact, spending went up every year. His financial legerdemain was so evident that the faculty voted twice to refuse his explanation of his supposed “cuts”; Kim just kept submitting fluff until the professors ran out of energy. What an operator.

To be sure, Kim does have talent. If only he had worked as hard to improve the institutions that he leads as he does guaranteeing his own advancement, he could achieve great things. But that kind of effort is much harder than playing the careerist.

Meanwhile on the ground in Washington, in the hopes of sparing themselves another five years of Kim’s ruinous management, beleaguered World Bank staffers had been planning public protests to coincide with the October meeting of the WB’s governing board. However it looks like the Kim train will have left the station by then. What options are left to them? A strike?

Addendum: The FT piece quotes several Kim critics — who could well have been talking about his short time at Dartmouth, too:

“It is a sprawling institution whose costs are growing,” said Mr [Robert] Kahn, a former senior official at both the US Treasury and the World Bank [and now senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations]. “We should not kid ourselves that we are ending up with an institution that is leaner and meaner.”

To critics they also point to what they see as Mr Kim’s lack of a clear strategy and the fact that even as he has taken the bank into new areas such as responding to pandemics he has avoided deciding what the bank should stop doing.

“His announced cuts were always fictional… And he has been basically flailing about to come up with a way of meeting those… notional targets without taking hard decisions,” said Lant Pritchett, a former World Bank official who now teaches at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Sound familiar?

Addendum: Lant Pritchett proposes the names of five capable women to run the World Bank — all of whom have extensive experience in finance and management. With backgrounds like that, clearly none of them are qualified.


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