Kim announced he will leave the role on 1 February to move into a private sector role advocating for infrastructure investment.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on January 8, 2019

Kim had initially been nominated for the role by then US President Barack Obama. His decision to abruptly exit the role with more than three years left on his term caught observers by surprise.

Kim had often been at odds with Donald Trump in his role, particularly on the issue of climate change policy. He had been unwilling to publicly clash with the US President but had been strongly making the case for the US to finance green energy initiatives and move away from its reliance on coal power.

His departure gives Donald Trump the chance to appoint a successor more closely aligned with his ideology.

In a statement, Kim said it had been an honour to serve in the role and reiterated the importance of the institution. “The work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world, and problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity,” he said.

During Kim’s tenure the World Bank articulated two overarching goals; to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to grow shared prosperity with a focus on the poorest 40% of the population in developing countries.

The relationship with the US is crucial for any World Bank Group President

The World Bank has almost 200 member nations but the US has traditionally effectively selected the President. In the Trump era, the US has distanced itself from multilateral international institutions, however, and Trump has been increasingly sceptical about the bank’s role in world affairs.

Eswar Prasad, the former Head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division, told The New York Times that Kim had managed to pull off the balancing act of keeping the US relatively placated while continuing to work on projects the Trump administration was ideologically opposed to.

“The new head of the institution will face a difficult challenge in maintaining the institution’s legitimacy and relevance while hewing to the Trump administration’s open hostility to multilateralism,” Prasad said.

In 2018, the Trump administration had given its support to a US$13 billion increase in capital after the US successfully argued the World Bank should reduce its loans to a number of wealthier nations, including China.

Kim had driven change during his time at the World Bank Group

Kim had reformed the bank’s structure during his tenure, moving the institution away from its previous reliance on wealthy nations financing the development of poorer nations. He had facilitated greater investment and financing from the private sector.

Nadia Daar, Head of Oxfam’s Washington Office, said there was a long way to go before the aims of the World Bank were realised but paid tribute to the work of the outgoing Kim.

“President Kim leaves a lasting legacy, including his commitments on climate change which we hope to see comprehensively implemented, and his leadership in pushing for greater investments in human development,” she said.

“His most important achievement was refocusing the World Bank on the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.”

Speaking after his selection as President in 2012, Kim said he would seek to align the World Bank Group “with a rapidly changing world”.

“My discussions with the Board and member countries point to a global consensus around the importance of inclusive growth,” he had said. “We are closer than ever to achieving the mission inscribed at the entrance of the World Bank – “Our Dream is a World Free of Poverty.”

CEO Kristalina Georgieva will temporarily take over the President’s role while the search for a replacement takes place. Georgieva has been in a number of executive roles at the European Union and the bank and has been CEO since 2017.