World Bank chief proposes sweeping reorganization

WASHINGTON — Jim Yong Kim, the American physician who took over as president of the World Bank last year, recently surveyed its 10,000 employees. The survey revealed a “culture of fear,” pervasive “fear of risk,” and a “terrible” environment for collaboration at the development institution, which lends more than $30 billion a year and works in more than 100 countries.

The bank, which provides a range of services to developing countries, was in danger of becoming a series of regional banks, Kim said. Worse, he feared its culture and organization might hamper its progress toward its goals of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and ensuring inclusive growth.

Kim plans a sweeping reorganization. He intends to present his plan at the bank’s annual meetings, conducted in concert with the International Monetary Fund at this week.


The proposal would organize the bank around 14 “global practices,” including agriculture, education, energy and extractives, health and nutrition, and trade and competitiveness.

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“The concept is terrific, as is the emphasis on the bank’s comparative advantage as being a knowledge institution,” said Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development.

But Kim acknowledged the challenges.

He said the response to his proposal has been mixed, with some welcoming the plan and others voicing concern the bank might focus too much on internal change and not enough on enacting its development programs.