The nomination of Jim Yong Kim by President Barack Obama to be the next President of the World Bank is generating plenty of controversy.
Lant Pritchett categorically stated that his nomination was a “terrible idea”.
William Easterly has already accused him of being anti-growth (see also here).
Perhaps all of Mr. Kim’s critics prefer the status quo where the World Bank is run by ex-warmongers (Robert McNamara), bankers (James Wolfensohn) or career civil servants (Robert Zoelick). Wait wasn’t that the World Bank that they loved to criticize?
Now President Obama came up with a radical idea: why not appoint someone with a track record in solving the problems of poor people in developing countries? Before turning to any of Mr. Kim’s theoretical books (quotes from which can be easily taken out of context), you should first check out Partners in Health, the extraordinary organization he started in 1987 with Paul Farmer, Todd McCormack, Thomas J. White and Ophelia Dahl.
I score this one against the moralist forces in our country. They are basically against what other countries find successful.
What was their secret? Determined policies to expand educational opportunities and access to health along with a willingness to depart from the conventional wisdom of the day and experiment with their own remedies. Even though all three North African countries are Moslem, empowering of women seems to have played an important role as well:
There is now substantial evidence that the health and schooling of children can be raised by empowering women, and this is precisely what Tunisia did when it raised the minimum age for marriage, revoked the colonial ban on imports of contraceptives, instituted the first family planning programme in Africa, legalized abortion, made polygamy illegal, and gave women the right to divorce as well as the right to stand and vote for election.
What is somewhat puzzling, as Rodriguez and Samman also note, is that these countries have not made nearly as much progress in democratization.
These new “facts” substantially enrich our understanding of the development landscape over the last four decades.