Kim must set vision for Bank, experts say
By Felicia Schwartz, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, June 29, 2012
After less than three years at Dartmouth, College President Jim Yong Kim will leave on June 30 to begin his new role as president of the World Bank. As he assumes his new role, Kim will have to articulate his vision for the bank and provide strategic direction, according to experts.
John Briscoe, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a former World Bank advisor and country director, said that Kim’s lack of experience will make his adjustment to the Bank “very difficult.”
Kim must deal with a large bureaucracy, composed of people with different skills and interests, Briscoe said.
“He has to manage an institution of 10,000 people, most of whom have more experience than he does on the issues he’s dealing with,” Briscoe said.
Richard Behar, a financial journalist whose investigative feature on corruption at the World Bank will appear in the July 16 issue of Forbes magazine, said the sheer size of the organization will challenge Kim. The Bank has a staff of over 10,000 employees from more than 168 countries.
“I think the biggest problem he faces is arguably one of the largest and most dysfunctional intergovernmental bureaucracies on the face of the planet,” Behar said.
While World Bank presidents come and go, middle- and upper-level officials remain, making it difficult for an incoming president to effect meaningful change during his tenure, Behar said.
When meeting with the Bank’s Board of Directors in April, Kim said that, as president, he would ask “hard questions about the status quo,” and would not be “afraid to challenge existing orthodoxies.”
Colin Bradford, former senior staff member at the Strategic Planning Unit of the World Bank and a Global Economy Fellow at the Brookings Institute, said that Kim will need to demonstrate early on that he is comfortable dealing with the vast array of economic issues that the Bank faces. Kim must surround himself with a strong group of advisors who can help him manage the Bank, Bradford said.
While some economists are skeptical of Kim’s economic knowledge, people inside the Bank are optimistic about working with him, according to Behar.
When Kim starts at the World Bank, he will need to decide how soon he will have a town hall meeting, a conference between the president and the entire World Bank staff, Behar said. Kim will also have to repair relations with the Board of Directors, a group that Behar called “very mediocre.”
Kim will have his “big public debut” at the annual meeting of the World Bank in Japan this October, Bradford said.
Bradford and Briscoe both said that Kim must articulate and implement his vision for the Bank in the immediate future.
“Coming in as a medical doctor, someone who is a visionary and a leader in a public health field, it will be interesting to see how he defines the Bank’s role more broadly,” Bradford said.
As the Bank shifts away from official aid flows and toward private flows, it offers various ideas, knowledge and best practices to countries around the world, according to Bradford.
Since Kim comes from outside the economic world, he has a chance to be “a Bank president like no other Bank president,” Bradford said.