World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announces resignation

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will resign effective February 1, more than three years ahead of the expiration of his term in 2022, the multilateral lender said on Monday.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 1, 2018.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 1, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announced Monday (Jan 7) he would step down next month, more than three years before his current term was due to expire.

The decision ends Dr Kim’s six-year tenure and may give United States President Donald decisive influence over the future leadership of the global development lender. 

“It has been a great honour to serve as president of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime,” Dr Kim said in a statement. 

Dr Kim, who became president in 2012, is to join an as-yet unnamed firm focusing on investments in developing countries, the bank said in a statement, and will return to the board of Partners-in-Health, which he co-founded. 

World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva will serve as interim president upon Dr Kim’s Feb 1 departure, the bank said in a statement. 

Under Dr Kim’s leadership, the bank set the goal of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and ramped up financing. 

Last year, it also won approval for a sharp US$13 billion (S$18 billion) capital increase after acceding to requests from the Trump administration to curb loans to high-income countries like China. 

Naming Dr Kim’s replacement could mark a sharp break with the past as the Trump administration has repeatedly broken with multilateral institutions and conventions of which Trump himself has been highly critical. 

Under an unwritten rule, the bank’s presidency has always been chosen by its largest shareholder, the United States, an arrangement that also allowed European powers to name the head of the International Monetary Fund. 

Nevertheless, when he was nominated for a first term in 2012, Dr Kim was the first US nominee to face a challenger when Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala entered the contest for the bank’s presidency. 

Perhaps warding off challengers and avoiding a repeat of 2012, the administration of former president Barack Obama in 2016 swiftly endorsed Dr Kim for a second five-year term, which began in 2017. 

However, the bank’s staff association in 2016 delivered a stinging broadside, citing high levels of disaffection among its 15,000 employees, asserting that it faced a “crisis of leadership” and calling for an end to “back-room deals” over control of the institution. 

World Bank staff also chafed at a widespread internal restructuring that Dr Kim began, as well as spending and staff cuts.  Internal staff surveys showed rank and file frequently did not trust management or understand the direction in which the institution was headed.