The backlash against Jim Yong Kim, President Obama’s choice for the World Bank, has begun. A couple pieces in the Financial Times make the case.
One, from Ed Luce, at least has some merit. Luce argues that the selection was a break from the past, but not enough of a break, because truly, the US shouldn’t have a monopoly on the position:
Were the process genuinely meritocratic – if the World Bank board was required to find the best-qualified candidate for the job – Dr Kim would be unlikely to find himself on a shortlist of three. In contrast, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the only African in the running, would be among anyone’s top picks. But the process doesn’t work like that. In spite of Mr Obama’s internationalist aspirations, fear of a domestic backlash clearly weighed even heavier on his mind [...]
Much has changed since Mr Zoellick was appointed to the job in 2007. While the west has talked about a world recession, China’s per capita income has risen by 43 per cent… African incomes have grown by almost double digits…. The relative weight of the global economy is shifting. But its economic institutions remain frozen in time…. There is still time in this – and future – moments for Mr Obama to take a more expansive view of what would best serve America’s interests.
I don’t disagree with this. Clearly there’s a balancing that needs to happen in international economics and finance. The monopolies over the World Bank and the IMF make no sense anymore in a changing world. Obama probably ran up against the edge of what he felt he could do politically, but that doesn’t complete the transition to an international system that respects emerging markets and their role. I understand the President’s reticence – it’s a familiar pattern – but Luce cannot really be explained away.
However, this bit of ridiculousness can easily be chucked:
Jim Yong Kim, the US nominee to head the World Bank, is coming under fire over a book he co-authored that criticises “neoliberalism” and “corporate-led economic growth”, arguing that in many cases they had made the middle classes and the poor in developing countries worse off.
Some economists are arguing that Dying for Growth, jointly edited by Dr Kim and published in 2000, puts too great a focus on health policy over broader economic growth.
“Dr Kim would be the first World Bank president ever who seems to be anti-growth,” said William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University. “Even the severest of World Bank critics like me think that economic growth is what we want.”
This is ridiculous. Easterly has a narrow definition of the word “growth” that’s defined only by corporate profits. I’m delighted to see that Kim rejects this, preferring the notion of shared growth and prosperity as the only kind of growth worth having.
Kim still has rivals for what is nominally an election to run the World Bank, in particular Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. And perhaps he doesn’t match up well with Ngozi. But anyone willing to critique the soul-crushing system of perpetual corporate growth at the expense of the citizenry has my vote.