Spectrum | Mar. 23 5:15 pm EST
No luck for sachs

Updated: Jeffrey Sachs overlooked by Obama but Ocampo still in the hunt

President Obama’s back in news that’s relevant to Columbia. However, today’s news has got nothing to do with the sensitive subject of his travel plans for the month of May.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia professor and director of the Earth Institute, had made his desire to be the next leader of a famous institution public: “I am seeking to be President of the World Bank so that together we can end extreme poverty in our time,” appeared on the Jeffrey Sachs Facebook page last week, with a link to his op-ed in the Washington Post.

However, Sachs will not be the next head of the international finance institution that aims to assist developing countries. The POTUS made headlines today by selecting Dartmouth’s President Jim Yong Kim as the US’ choice to lead the World Bank. One of the two other contenders is Jose Antonio Ocampo, a SIPA professor. Check after the jump for more on the three candidates (including a video of Kim that you won’t want to miss) and reaction to the news.

Obama overlooked economist Larry Summers and American Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as well.

What’s most interesting about the decision is that Kim is a physician and an anthropologist. Not an economist or policy maker. Fun fact: He got his bachelor’s degree at Brown and his medical and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard.

While welfare economists understand and regularly take public health effects into account when making policy decisions, it remains to be seen whether Kim, an expert in public health, will be able to address issues of inequality and poverty successfully.

The nomination does not mean that Kim is guaranteed the role. Nigeria’s finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has received the backing of three African nations. Shortly before today’s 6 p.m. EST deadline for nominations, Ocampo, a Colombion, received the backing of Brazil and the Dominican Republic. His country, Colombia, decided to focus on the International Labor Organization nomination instead. But historical precedent suggests that the US gets to select the head of the World Bank while Europe chooses the head of the International Monetary Fund.

While the the pros and cons of this decision will be debated for a while, it’s quite clear that Dartmouth’s Kim brings something different to the table.

See the full White House press release here and a roundup of early reactions here.




  1. anon • March 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm • Reply

    Dartmouth will be thrilled because no one liked him.

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  2. "Foreign Policy Advisor" Susan Rice? • March 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm • Reply

    Her title is technically U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She has an official diplomatic position, not an informal, in-house advisory role.

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    • Mrinal Mohanka STAFF • March 23, 2012 at 6:11 pm • Reply

      Thanks! I’ve updated the post. My apologies for not being more accurate.

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  3. Jeff Sachs • March 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm • Reply

    is not the only Columbia rep— Jose Antonia Ocampo is one of the contenders. No one’s mentioned that.

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    • Mrinal Mohanka STAFF • March 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm • Reply

      Thanks! When I published this post, Ocampo’s candidacy hadn’t been confirmed. Colombia had withdrawn and said it was going to focus on the ILO nomination instead. I’ve updated the post to reflect Ocampo’s nomination by Brazil and the Dominican Republic.

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  4. Jeff Sachs • March 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm • Reply


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