17 Apr 2012

World Bank picks US candidate as president

2:09 pm on 17 April 2012

The board of the World Bank has chosen a US academic as its new president despite an unprecedented challenge from a non-American candidate.

Korean-born Jim Yong Kim, who was nominated by the United States president Barack Obama, beat Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the job.

An expert on health issues in the developing world,is currently president of the American university Dartmouth College.

The 52-year-old had the support of Washington's allies in Western Europe, Japan, Canada and some emerging market economies, including Russia, Mexico and South Korea.

However, unlike previous World Bank elections, the decision was not unanimous.

There had been a three-way contest for the presidency until Friday when former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo withdrew. He said the process, which was meant to be based solely on credentials, had become highly political.

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan welcomed the fact that non-Americans competed for the post for the first time, but also said there were concerns the process was not fully merit-based.

The United States has held the presidency since the World Bank's founding after World War II, while a European has always led its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

Unlike previous heads of the World Bank, Mr Kim is not a politician, a banker or diplomat, but a trained physician and anthropologist who has worked to bring health care to the poor in developing countries.

He succeeds Robert Zoellick who has been in the role since 2007.