“It’s an embarrassment to the U.S.”

Dr. Lant Pritchett, a tenured professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government offers his judgment on the nomination of Jim Yong Kim. The professor lays it down as follows:

  • “It’s an embarrassment to the U.S. You cannot with a straight face say this person is the most qualified to lead the World Bank.”
  • “There is no way you can say with a straight face that this man is more qualified to head the World Bank than Ngozi,”
  • “At best, Kim has worked with ministers of health, but they are in one of many, many government agencies,” says Pritchett. “A minister of finance has to make hard choices across sectors. Having the experience of a minister of finance is the optimal experience for being president of the World Bank.” Adds Pritchett, nominating Kim “is like picking the short stop for the New York Yankees out of the scrub leagues.”
  • As for the difference between development and the charity work that Mr. Kim has done;  “Development is about countries becoming prosperous, democratic and capable, like being able to deliver the mail, having police forces that work and kids who get educated,” says Pritchett. “Charity work is helping people cope with the fact that they live in places where they don’t have those things.”

To be fair, I think Prof. Pritchett is using the word “embarrassment”  to simply say that the U S choice does not really reflect an understanding of what the World Bank is and what it actually does, and far much less respect for the Institution than say Europe’s pick to head the IMF.  I think no one can argue seriously that Mr. Kim can come even close to matching the prestige that Lagarde brings to the IMF’s global image. Ngozi, on the other hand, can certainly do that.


8 thoughts on ““It’s an embarrassment to the U.S.”

  1. Ocampo has by far more policy making, technical and diplomatic experience and skills than the other two candidates. As many observers and serious economists have commented, if the decision is based on true merits and capabilities due the demands and challenges the post represents, Jose Antonio Ocampo must be the next president of the World Bank.

  2. um, is that the same Lant Pritchett who authored that wonderful memo that Larry Summers signed, about Africa being under-polluted? A big thank you to him if so, for helping to squelch Summers’s hopes of leading the WB, and glad to hear he has been rewarded with tenure. But Ngozi should probably look for a different campaign manager. And let’s be clear: Ngozi was at the WB for several years as Managing Director. We have the odd situation in which the Nigerian candidate is the candidate of the status quo and the US candidate is the candidate of change. Will he be good at running the WB? Who knows. But for anyone who thinks the WB needs some serious changes, I think Kim is the more hopeful choice.

  3. Ocampo should be supported by all. He seems to be the most qualified candidate of the three with a wide and varied experience. United Nations, Ministry of Finance Colombia, Ministry of Agriculture Colombia, Columbia University Instructor e.t.c. Ngozi has all has experience either at the world bank or in Nigeria finance ministry and a short stint at the Ministry of foreign affairs. Dr kim experience has mainly being in health care and as a school administrator…Ocampo wins by a far margin He has also been academic….this should be a no brainer…

  4. Wolfowitz was an embarrassment too–that is why he got fired.

    But what is the relevance? This is about Kim versus Ngozi not versus predecessors.

  5. I stay fully behind the candidacy of Ngozi, but I cannot in any way share the opinion that Jim Yong Kim is an embarrassment… most specially at this moment when so many notoriously meritorious should be embarrassed about not having been able to alert on the real causes of the financial crisis which is costing the world more than whatever the World Bank, IADB, IMF and other MFIs have disbursed since their beginnings.

  6. I don’t know much about Dr. Kim but if he is an embarassment, what would you call Paul Wolfowitz? His economic incompetence was amply demonstrated when he told us that the war in Iraq would pay for itself. I also don’t know anything about the ethics of Dr. Kim, but I’ll be surprised if is not a step up from those of his predecssors.

  7. Lant’s comments seem quite unbalanced. Ngozi would have been a strong candidate it’s true, but Dr. Kim brings huge potential, not least to help the Bank make the transition to a new post-Great Recession world. Things are different today and we need fresh thinking and a clear vision to move the bank to relevancy. Dr. Kim has the opportunity to provide it. He’s not a Washington insider (the way Lant, Ngozi and I are) and smart enough to consult the people he needs (inside and outside the institution) to put together his strategy.

    An embarrassment? Only if you believe things haven’t changed in the global arena over the past four years.

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