World Bank presidency search opens with Kim Yong's hat in ring

World Bank chief Kim Yong Jim will seek a second term of office.
World Bank chief Kim Yong Jim will seek a second term of office. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - World Bank chief Kim Yong Jim will seek a second term of office, the global development lender said on Tuesday as it announced the start of a selection process for the presidency.

Mr Kim's bid to remain as president comes in the face a rare public rebuke from the bank's rank-and-file, who earlier this month declared that the institution faced a "crisis of leadership".

"The executive directors expressed unanimous support for an open, merit-based and transparent selection, with nominations open to all member countries," the executive board said in a statement. Mr Kim's five-year term ends on June 30.

Following an unwritten rule, the United States, the bank's largest shareholder, has always chosen its president, while the International Monetary Fund leader has been drawn from Europe.

The World Bank staff association said in an open letter on Aug 8 that this tradition flew in the face of principles of transparency, diversity and merit-based selection, given that the process had always selected an American man.

The executive board said Mr Kim had been selected in 2012 according to new principles meant to ensure an "open and transparent" process and that the next president would be as well.

Mr Kim was the first American candidate to face competition when Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala also contended for the presidency.

The latest selection process begins at midnight on Thursday, launching a three-week window for nominations.

Mr Kim's current term is not due to expire for more than 10 months, meaning the pending selection process begins significantly earlier than the previous one, which was conducted and concluded in the quarter prior to Mr Kim taking office.

A medical doctor and former president of Dartmouth College, Mr Kim was the first Bank president not to be drawn from the financial or political worlds.

After taking office in 2012, Mr Kim announced a new goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and a sweeping internal reorganisation to foster collaboration across the bank.

However, the reforms appear to have alienated many staff members, who in employee surveys have reported feeling detached from senior management and unsure of the direction of policy.

The World Bank currently faces questions about its continuing relevance on the world stage as developing countries can now turn to a growing number of other lenders - such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, founded at China's initiative, which held its first annual meeting in June.