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Obama's Pick Expected to Win World Bank Top Slot

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President Obama’s surprise nomination for the presidency of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is expected to come out the winner among other nominees for the post, despite the fact that for the first time emerging nations have put up their own candidates with a real eye toward victory.

Kim, president of Dartmouth, is also a physician and the former director of the Department of HIV/AIDS at the World Health Organization. He is a much less political choice than had been expected. Still, Reuters reported Monday that Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, another nominee for the top spot, called for emerging economies to be given a fair shot at the job.

While Kim’s name was an unexpected choice, his credentials, according to Paul Farmer, offer a change in direction for the bank. Farmer, chairman of the Department of Global Health at Harvard University, was a co-founder with Kim of the nonprofit Partners in Health, a group that assists the poorest countries. He told Reuters Kim had a real understanding of poverty and a sense of purpose.

“A lot of people who live in poverty in the world today feel that the World Bank has stalled and needs new vision,” Farmer told Reuters. “One of his qualities is that boldness of vision.”

Okonjo-Iweala was nominated Friday by Nigeria, South Africa and Angola, which rarely agree with one another. Brazil nominated the former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo. Emerging nations see an opportunity to gain greater say in the running of the World Bank, although the U.S. can still call upon the support of Europe and Japan and thus is likely to come out the victor with Kim.

However, Okonjo-Iweala said emerging economies would fall away from cooperation with such world bodies if they were not given a greater chance to affect policy. “The balance of power in the world has shifted and emerging market countries are contributing more and more to global growth—more than 50%—and they need to be given a voice in running things,” she told Reuters. “If you don’t, they will lose interest.”