International Monetary Fund

Obama Nominates Physician, Global Health Expert to Head World Bank

 Photo via Getty Images.
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, nominee for president of the World Bank, at the White House Friday 3/23/12. Photo via Getty Images.

In a move that surprised many in the world of economics and politics, on Friday morning President Obama nominated Jim Yong Kim, the South Korea-born physician, anthropologist and president of Dartmouth College, to be the next president of the World Bank.

Prior to taking the helm at Dartmouth in 2009, Kim, 52, led the global health and social medicine department at Harvard Medical School, of which he is a graduate. Widely considered one of the leading minds in world health, Kim also has served as a director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization, where he focused on helping developing countries improve treatment and prevention programs.

Obama called Kim, “an innovative leader whose groundbreaking work to fight disease and combat poverty has saved lives around the globe.” The President said Kim is exceptionally well qualified for the position but brings “more to the role than an impressive record of designing new ways to solve entrenched problems.

“Development is his lifetime commitment, and it is his passion,” Obama said. “And in a world with so much potential to improve living standards, we have a unique opportunity to harness that passion and experience at the helm of the World Bank.”

A Paper God

Commentators have frequently compared the credit crisis of today with the economic crisis of 1929, just before the Great Depression. Yet almost no one speaks about the deeper causes of the economic crisis: the eagerness of banks to give, year after year, huge amounts of credit to speculators and all kinds of speculative funds, with an enormous worldwide growth of financial markets and new financial products as an unavoidable consequence.

 


In recent years there has been a staggering increase in the amount of money being invested by investors worldwide—and most of it has been put in highly speculative markets in the financial, rather than the “real,” economy. What does this distinction mean? To oversimplify, the “real economy” is the part of the economy that involves making, selling, and buying goods and services, from groceries to shoes to doctors’ visits to garbage collection. The financial sector, in contrast, involves the buying and selling of money as a product in its own right.

 

 


On its simplest level, this involves the trade in loans or bonds (someone borrows money and pays back more money in the future), the buying and selling of foreign currencies, and the buying and selling of shares in the stock market.

 

 

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Sojourners Magazine June 2009
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Decoding the Lingo

Trade technocrats try to hide behind a veil of boring, but you can get beyond the jargon.

• Neoliberal economics, aka "market fundamentalism." The idea that we are better off eliminating all barriers to trade (and commerce in general), all the time.

• Policy space. Letting governments choose the economic policies that actually fit their circumstances, instead of restricting them with one-size-fits-all trade agreements or harmful conditions attached to aid or loans.

• World Bank. An international body, controlled by wealthy countries, that lends and grants money to poor countries in order to fight poverty. It is slowly getting over the destructive habit of imposing harmful conditions.

• International Monetary Fund. An international body controlled by wealthy nations. When its original goals (having to do with currency exchange rates and short-term balance-of-payments problems) became obsolete in the 1970s and after, the IMF started strong-arming poor countries into accepting damaging conditions.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2007
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