The World Bank Presidency – A continuation of American domination?

The World Bank elected an American as its twelfth president last week – Dr Kim Yong Kim.  Kim will oversee a staff of 9,000 economists and development experts and and manage billions of dollars of loans ($258bn (£163bn) last year alone)

Dependency Theorists and World Systems theorists suggest that international economic institutions work in the interests of dominant world powers – namely the United States and it’s hard to see how you can interpret the appointment of Dr Kim any other way – he is the twelfth American president out of 12.

This is a result of America, Europe and Japan having more of a share of the vote than the developing countries. It’s not ‘one country one vote’ – Europe and Japan together control 54% of the votes – basicaly meaning those countries effectively decide the outcome, and the developing country vote is essentially useless. As Kim’s closest rival in the contest, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said  “You know this thing is not really being decided on merit,” she told reporters. “It is voting with political weight and shares and therefore the United States will get it.”

This post from Al Jazeera offers further criticism of the processes and procedures of the world bank and how they are biased to western interests

However, it’s unclear how much longer the West’s domination of the World Bank can last – For the first time in 70 years of its history, the United States’ hold on the job was at least actually challenged: Nigeria’s  finance minister  got the vote of several developing countries as well as Brazil and South Africa.

Also, unlike previous presidents of the World Bank, Kim’s background is in anthropology and health, rather than in finance and politics. It is thus more likely that development will be top of his agenda rather than just the economic interest of the United States.

This is an important contemporary event that students can use in the SCLY3 exam on global development to illustrate both the relevance of dependency theory and the pessimist view of economic globalisation.

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