Dr. Jim Yong Kim: man on a mission

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Dr. Jim Yong Kim, 12th President of The World Bank Group (WBG), recently unveiled plans to eliminate world poverty by 2030. We hear about his ambitions for the future.

The excitement that our people have in solving problems is an excitement that I share with them.

— Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President, The World Bank Group

“No more business as usual.” That was the message from Dr. Kim at the organization’s recent annual meetings in Washington, DC. With a new strategy and new targets to pursue, his is an agenda broad in reach and ambitious in scale.

Dr. Kim’s current priorities are:

  • Ending extreme poverty by 2030, bringing it down to 3% of the global population
  • Boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40% of the population in developing countries
  • Implementing sweeping internal reforms aim to make the organization more efficient

Direction of travel

Dr. Kim is keen to stress that the strategy to end poverty is rooted in the words and deeds of staff from across the organization.

Achieving these two overarching goals that have been voted on by WBG member countries is not easy. “Right now, we’re at about 18%,” concedes Dr. Kim. “We don’t think there’s any way we can get to 3% unless we’re at 9% by 2020. We’re aiming to halve poverty in seven years. This is a lot of work for us to do and our public sector and private sector teams have to work together to accomplish this goal.”

Repositioning the Bank

The WBG consists of five separate organizations, all of which will be affected by Dr. Kim’s reform program. “We did a survey of the whole organization and the results were not pretty. We asked if the structure was set up in a way that allowed them to do their best work, and the answer was ‘no.’

“There was no cross-fertilization of knowledge between the regions. If there was a great innovation in one region, it was effectively going to stay in that region. They said we were less than the sum of our parts.”

Under the proposals, the WBG will find at least a US$400m reduction in annual administrative costs over the next three years. The organization will change the way it designs its budget and better align budgets with strategy. There are also plans to explore new ways to grow revenue to better serve its clients.

Dr. Kim is fully expecting to meet some resistance. “The key is for our senior leadership to not back off when meeting resistance or meeting noise.”

Making a difference

The opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives is a mission that underpins the work of both himself and his teams at the Bank.

“I’ve been doing development my whole life,” he reflects. “At the Bank, the time when people get most passionate is when they talk about lifting people out of poverty. We have this wonderful experience of going into a situation and actually making it better and seeing the difference in people’s lives.”

Read our article: I’ve been doing development all my life