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“A terrible idea and embarrassment ” – Harvard professor and World Bank employee blasts US nominee, supports Okonjo-Iweala

by Lekan Olanrewaju

Just as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, one of three nominees running for World Bank presidency, has – in an interview with Reuters – called for a “level playing field”, Lant Pritchett, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who also worked at the World Bank for 17 years, has spoken out about the US World Bank presidency nomination. President Obama had tipped Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim to head the institution, but Pritchett described it as as “a terrible idea” and “an embarrassment’. He tipped Nigeria’s finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as more suited to assumed the head of World Bank

“There is no way you can say with a straight face that this man is more qualified to head the World Bank than Ngozi,” he said.

“At best, Kim has worked with ministers of health, but they are in one of many, many government agencies. A minister of finance has to make hard choices across sectors. Having the experience of a minister of finance is the optimal experience for being president of the World Bank”

He also said that the nomination of Kim was “like picking the short stop for the New York Yankees out of the scrub leagues.” and went on to describe his work as “charity work”.

“Development is about countries becoming prosperous, democratic and capable, like being able to deliver the mail, having police forces that work and kids who get educated,” he said. “Charity work is helping people cope with the fact that they live in places where they don’t have those things.”

Okonjo-Iweala studied economics at Harvard and earned a doctorate in regional economics and development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was managing director of the World Bank under current President Robert Zoellick, who is retiring in June after a five-year term.

Kim also studied at Harvard, but as Business Live points out, he studied medicine, so he has no experience of economics or banking, although as president of Dartmouth College, one of America’s elite Ivy League universities, he could say he has enough executive experience to run the World Bank.

 

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