[Viewpoint] The moral obligation

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[Viewpoint] The moral obligation

When the U.S. President Barack Obama recently nominated Jim Yong Kim to head the World Bank, debate arose regarding who among the other formidable candidates was best qual-ified for the top job.

Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colom-bian Finance Minister José Antonio Ocampo are other frontline candi-dates. Jeffrey Sachs, with massive experience in development and pov-erty eradication programs would have made a decent entrant, too. Well, that's life, isn't it?

I have no doubt that Kim, a Kore-an-American public-health expert, can make an exceptional head of the World Bank, having led the World Health Organization's global body on AIDS/HIV. Admittedly, debate still lingers over the candidates and their merit on proficiency in global eco-nomic development, which is seem-ingly what the World Bank is about. The debates may continue but what matters at the end of the day is wheth-er the new president can steer the in-stitution in a sensible direction for helping people.

The man or woman at the helm of the World Bank might want to check whether the impact of what they do trickles down to say, a farmer, a fresh graduate or a vegetable vendor some-where in India, Africa or Chile. To them, what really matters are ap-proaches that bring them intellectual, economic and, to some extent, politi-cal empowerment to overcome pov-erty and its related hardships.

In most places with dire need of local and national fundamental poli-cies that reward hard work and merit, World Bank assistance is still some-thing to crave for. And perhaps the new World Bank chief may need to be a little more passionate in encourag-ing policies that bring governments, private sectors and people at the grassroots level to a participatory stage. Integration and inclusive en-gagement can greatly reduce hurdles that stand in people's socioeconomic freedom. In other words, a down-top approach will be the more appropri-ate means of empowering individu-als' industrious capabilities rather than solely depending on govern-ments, some of which are better de-scribed as politically-charged than development-focused.

Certainly the next World Bank president also faces significant tasks that include reforming the institution itself, the delicate question of the bank's role in advancing good gov-ernance and accountability, and jug-gling the global politics of finance.

Whether it will be Kim, Ngozi or Ocampo, one thing remains; raising people out of poverty is in reality a moral aspiration. I am tempted to say "may the best candidate win," but as you already guessed, it is not always the case.

by Benson Kamary

* The author is a freelance journalist and the secretary general of Kenya Community in Korea. He can be reached at bkamary@yahoo.com.

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