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Interview

Banker to the Poor

A Conversation With Jim Yong Kim

Jim Yong Kim

  • Country: South Korea, The United States
  • Title: President of the World Bank
  • Education: Brown University, University of Iowa, Harvard Medical School, Harvard University

Conceived at the 1944 Bretton Woods conference to help rebuild postwar Europe, the World Bank has expanded over the ensuing 70 years into a global organization dedicated to promoting economic growth and reducing poverty -- goals it aims to meet by giving the billions of dollars in gets in contributions from developed countries to developing ones in the form of loans and grants. In 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama broke with tradition by nominating Jim Yong Kim to serve as the institution’s president. Unlike his predecessors, Kim came not from the world of finance, economics, or politics but from that of public health. Trained as an anthropologist and a physician, Kim co-founded the nonprofit Partners in Health in 1987, gaining renown for his work on drug-resistant tuberculosis. He then directed the HIV/AIDS Department of the World Health Organization, taught at Harvard Medical School, and served as the president of Dartmouth College. Kim spoke with Foreign Affairs deputy managing editor Stuart Reid at the bank’s Washington headquarters in June.

What are the major challenges to economic development, and what is the World Bank doing about them?

We’ve set two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. How are we going to get there? Generally speaking, it divides into three main categories. One is economic growth. If you look at the greatest achievements in lifting people out of poverty, China, almost through brute economic growth, lifted 600 million people out of poverty. The second big block is investment in human beings. In other words, making sure that the poorest people have some kind of income or sustenance to be able to consume and, potentially, participate in economic growth. And a third category is social protection. There are some governments that found that even if you’ve had a tremendous amount of success, if you have a little bit of a downturn and you don’t have that safety net in place, people plunge right back into poverty. This happened in South

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