Editor’s Note: January 08, 2019

Who cares about the World Bank?

World Bank president Jim Kim on Monday unexpectedly announcedthat he will be resigning from the institution on February 1, more than three years before his term is supposed to end.

His surprise departure has reignited debate about the decades-old tradition of American leadership at the Bank. Washington is its biggest shareholder, and it has conventionally fallen to the sitting U.S. administration to appoint its president.

This faces strong opposition from emerging markets, with growing consensus that it’s out of step with a changing global development landscape.

The rising influence of markets like China India, as well as the the emergence of alternatives like the BRICS-led New Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, are disrupting the dominance of traditional multilaterals.

So is the growing role of the private sector in development, which has seen the lines between business and development blur in recent years.

It’s noteworthy that Kim is joining a private investment firm, saying he believes this – rather than the world’s leading development bank – is the most effective way to tackle issues like climate change and infrastructure development.

It suggests the Bank is not the force it once was. 

The search for a successor could be hotly contested, but it’s also debatable how much it matters.

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