WASHINGTON – Passing over better-known candidates, President Barack Obama on Friday nominated global health expert and Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim to lead the World Bank.
It was a surprise pick aimed in part at fending off challenges from developing nations eager to end the U.S. monopoly of the top job at the international institution.
Obama’s appointment all but guarantees that Kim, a 52-year-old physician and pioneer in treating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in the developing world, will take over at the helm of the World Bank. Though he was born in South Korea, he will extend a tradition of American presidents dating back to the organization’s founding in 1944.
The 187-nation World Bank focuses on fighting poverty and promoting development. It is a leading source of development loans for countries seeking financing to build dams, roads and other infrastructure projects.
Several developing nations had sought to break the U.S. leadership streak when current Bank President Robert Zoellick announced he would step down at the end of June.
As Obama announced Kim’s nomination from the White House Rose Garden on Friday, he tried to make the case that an American with a unique background and broad international experience would be a committed representative of the developing world’s interests.