HSG reporting from Washington DC, 23-03-2012:
If Dr. Jim Yong Kim, Barack Obama’s nominee to be World Bank President gets the job (they invariably do, the U.S. has more than 16% of the vote on the Board, compared to Haiti’s 0.08%), Haiti could be punching way above its weight for once. Kim knows Haiti and its problems well – from the grassroots. As a medical student he was one of the co-founder’s of Partners In Health/Zanmi Lasante(PIH/ZL), the largest and most widely respected health NGO/CSO in Haiti, along with much better known Paul Farmer (the subject of the book Mountains Beyond Mountains and now, amongst many other things, Bill Clinton’s Deputy as UN Special Envoy to Haiti). Kim in fact led much of the innovative thinking that produced the NGO-public sector model that has guided PIH/ZL, was crucial in developing the WHO’s now widely accepted drug-resistant TB treatment (he has also worked at WHO) and played a major role in getting retroviral drugs to the poorest in places like Haiti to combat HIV/AIDS.
Obama has chosen Jim Kim to combat the pressure from the developing countries for one of their own to get the top job at the World Bank. Kim is American but was born in South Korea, not the Asian tiger of today but the poor, devastated country of the years that followed the Korean War. Kim is no stooge but equally, given his laudable record and experience, he will have no excuses. Unlike every World Bank President since 1944, he knows first-hand, in real time, the issues, the obstacles and the challenges in fighting poverty – which is supposed to be the World Bank’s core mission – and he learnt those lessons in Haiti more than anywhere else.
With a raging cholera epidemic (what about a real World Bank sponsored national mass vaccination campaign for starters, Dr. Kim?), a shocking level of food insecurity even before the next food price spike hits (a product of the sort of policies the World Bank continues to push), and half a million homeless still in tents and under tarpaulins as another rainy season approaches, few countries in Kim’s global portfolio are in more urgent need of immediate emergency room attention. He could start by having a good look at what the Haiti Reconstruction Fund (the donor clearing house for unfunded orphan projects approved by the now defunct IHRC) housed in the World Bank has in its portfolio. The Doktor is in; is Haiti, Dr. Kim?