Barack Obama, in a White House ceremony this morning, has nominated Jim Yong Kim to lead The World Bank after Robert Zoellick.
The body language of Secretaries Clinton and Geithner during the nomination ceremony, however, indicates that should the Kim nomination not work out Hillary Clinton could be appointed World Bank president and Geithner could become Secretary of State, though a Colin Powell appointment appears to be optimal in light of the November 2012 election.
Still, there are many reasons for the Kim nomination, besides, of course, the interesting coincidence that Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations and Mr. Kim share national and cultural origins:
First, Kim is the president of Dartmouth College, the undergraduate alma mater of US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner whose responsibility it is to officially recommend candidates for the presidency of The World Bank and to oversee the Bank’s activities.
Second, He is a Korean-American immigrant, similar to Henry Kissinger of Germany, at age 5, is an accomplished public health professional and an anthropologist similar Obama’s late mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who was recently posthumously awarded the Distinguished Alumnus Award by the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, also one of my graduate alma maters.
Third, Kim is a non-controversial neutral nominee who is pliable to Washington’s interests despite his Korean heritage, an American and an Asian with the educational pedigree Obama likes. He was awarded the McArthur Genius Fellowship for work in his profession. United States has always appointed presidents of The World Bank Group which is overseen by the United States Department of the Treasury and works with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – an agency with personal ties to Obama and Geithner (the president’s mother had traveled the world working with USAID and Geithner had spent a few childhood years in India with his family when his father was with USAID).
Fourth, the resurgence of eradicated bacterial and viral infectious diseases as well as new micro-organisms can have a significant impact on poverty reduction at a time when poverty levels have increased in all economies of the world, including the advanced.
Fifth, sexual habits, Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) caused by the rapid mutations of the Human Immuno-Deficiency (HIV) virus, and cross-cultural migration and integration, in a world of 7 billion people and growing, is an important issue for global security in the context of national defense and world health, which a scientific expert such as Mr. Kim can focus on coordinating with member countries’ governments and the World Health Organization while at the Bank during the coming 5 years.
Sixth, With Mr. Jim Yong Kim’s nomination to lead The World Bank, Obama has reciprocated Korea’s openness in trade with US. Korea has become more open to US autos and other imports aiding The White House’s exports-doubling goal the president had set for himself in 2010.
Seventh, Seoul is strategic for US interests in the region as the North Korean problem evolves over the next 5 years in the context of the 6-party talks. It is time to end Truman’s Korean armistice by demining the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the Korean people.
Eighth, Tim Geithner had worked on Korea while a young Treasury official and Clinton appointee during the Asian Crisis in 1997.
Mr. Kim will benefit from learning more about the role of public health in the larger context of poverty reduction (the mission of the Bank) and sustainability from the likes of myself who have defined the future work of the Bank and its role in the rapidly evolving private marketplace.