Obama Picks Dartmouth President to Head World Bank

Dartmouth College

 (Dartmouth College)

The White House nominated on Friday Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank, succeeding Robert Zoellick who announced plans last month to step down. 

President Barack Obama’s choice to nominate Kim – a physician who has been known for his involvement in global health issues – is surprising. He beat out big-name candidates for the nomination, including Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and Larry Summers.

Kim seems to have won Obama's backing because of his broad international experience. A former director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS unit, he may help counter criticism from developing nations that are weary of the U.S. hold on the World Bank. 

"It is time for a development professional to lead the world's largest development agency," Obama said in a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Friday. "I do not think that the World Bank could have a better leader."

The World Bank’s president has almost exclusively been a U.S. citizen, as the U.S. has the largest share in the bank and traditionally has the biggest say in its operations.

Kim, 52, was born in South Korea but moved to the U.S. when he was 5.

The White House’s nomination must be approved by the executive board of the bank, which is comprised of representatives from the bank’s member countries.

While Kim is not a banker, the World Bank is not a financial institution in the traditional sense. It is mostly responsible for reducing poverty and overseeing development programs that help boost foreign investment and international trade.

The current World Bank president, Zoellick, who was nominated by President George W. Bush, said last month that he would step down after a five-year term.

Kim, who has been Dartmouth’s president since 2009, has dedicated himself to improving health and social justice around the world. He is co-founder of Partners in Health, graduated from Brown University, and received his medical degree from Harvard.

Follow Jennifer Booton on Twitter at @Jbooton