Japan backing Kim for World Bank chief: Azumi

Kyodo

Finance Minister Jun Azumi said Sunday that Tokyo will support Jim Yong Kim, America’s candidate for next World Bank president, despite growing calls for the multilateral aid agency to be led by someone from the developing world.

The announcement followed Azumi’s talks in Tokyo with Kim, a health expert who currently heads Dartmouth College. Kim is running against two other candidates, both of whom are from developing countries, to replace Robert Zoellick, the current head of the Washington-based institution, whose tenure ends June 30.

Kim, who is of Korean descent, is a “very talented” official in the area of health issues, Azumi said after the meeting, praising his career in the HIV/AIDS department of the World Health Organization. “We have judged he is the suitable candidate for the World Bank presidency and will support him.”

The two others vying for the five-year presidency are former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo, who is backed by Brazil, and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealat, championed by South Africa.

Emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and Russia have failed to field a single candidate for the job, which traditionally goes to an American, reflecting the voting power of the United States at the bank and support from other developed members, including Japan and European nations.

Azumi has no plan to meet with Ocampo or Okonjo-Iwealat, a ministry official said.

“It is important that (the new president) well understands Japan’s position and reflects it in the bank’s policy,” Azumi said.

A former recipient of development assistance from the World Bank during its postwar growth spurt, Japan is now the second-biggest stakeholder in the institution after the United States.

“It would be OK to have various discussions on how to manage the World Bank,” Azumi said, adding that Kim, 52, “sufficiently understands” the needs of the developing world.

The minister was apparently denying the widespread view that Tokyo is supporting Kim only because it wants to maintain good ties with Washington.

The executive board of the World Bank will pick its next president by the semiannual meetings this month to be jointly held by its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund.

Kim’s visit is part of a tour of seven nations to drum up support for his campaign. He arrived in Tokyo after visiting China.