Japan’s Azumi Supports Jim Yong Kim to Head World Bank

Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said he supports U.S. nominee Jim Yong Kim’s bid to lead the World Bank.

Kim’s work on HIV/AIDS in the World Health Organization shows the 52-year-old physician has expertise on developing nation issues, Azumi said today.

“He is a highly competent individual who spearheaded efforts and contributed to AIDS issues,” Azumi spoke to reporters today in Tokyo after meeting Kim. “We judge he’s an appropriate candidate for the World Bank and support his bid.”

Kim was head of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and also served as director of the World Health Organization’s HIV/AIDS department. In 1987, he co-founded Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization that has opened clinics in countries including Haiti and Peru.

Before meeting Azumi, Kim also met with Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan in Shaoxing, China, as part of a global tour to solicit “priorities and ideas” for the bank’s future, according to a statement yesterday from the U.S. Treasury.

President Barack Obama proposed Dartmouth College President Kim, who would be the first Asian-American to head the body. The World Bank plans to pick its new president April 16 after interviewing the three candidates for the post the previous week, according to three officials at the lender’s board.

Kim’s Challengers

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is scheduled to meet the 25-person board April 9, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the dates haven’t been made public. Former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo is to be interviewed on April 10, followed by Kim on April 11, the officials said.

The candidacies of Ocampo and Okonjo-Iweala are a challenge to American control of the job under an informal agreement that also gives the leadership of the International Monetary Fund to a European. The U.S. is the bank’s largest shareholder, and an American has always held the top job.

Ocampo, in a phone interview last week, said he and Okonjo- Iweala have a chance to win if the selection “respects the rules of being an open, transparent process based on merit.”

“Maybe it will not change this time,” Ocampo said. “But in that case we’re putting up the fight so that that system will be changed forever.”

The new president will succeed Robert Zoellick, whose term ends June 30. The new president will take over an institution that lent $57 billion last year, as private investors step up their funding for development projects, turning the World Bank into more of a technical adviser.

The World Bank and the IMF were founded at the end of World War II to promote international development and economic cooperation with loans and advice.

To contact the reporter on this story: Yoshiaki Nohara in Tokyo at ynohara1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net

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