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Can a doctor put economics first? Possible challenge for the new World Bank president

Industry News

Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert and president of Dartmouth College, will now serve as president of the World Bank.

The debate with having a doctor as president of the World Bank is that the majority of past presidents have been from the market and economics industry.

Since the new president is highly involved with public health, experts are concerned that he may be interested in dedicating more funds to causes such as HIV/AIDS, which was a huge part of development in the past, but the World Bank is trying to move away from that now. Public health is just not their strength.

The United States loves to invest in public health, says Todd Moss, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. But we already have PEPFAR [the government's AIDS relief program], and the U.S. Agency for International Development is already health-dominated.

Experts say that Kim may not be able to bring them back to health since the World Bank's agenda is set by 187 shareholder countries and the Treasury Department might have no interest in that.

Another concern with having a president from the public health industry is that all decisions must be guided by economics and you have to realize that there is not an unlimited amount of resources for suffering people.

I worry that too many doctors and public health experts, are resistant to this approach, said William Easterly, a former World Bank economist.

Trying to pull Kim from the mind set of wanting to help everyone and not being as concerned with the cost could be a challenge since helping others is what he has been trained to do. On the other hand he could have a great strength in deciding where to allocate these limited funds for health care since he is familiar with the industry, probably more so than the economists that have held this position.

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