Jim Kim reflects on World Bank reforms

In this exclusive interview with Devex’s editor-in-chief, Jim Yong Kim reflects on the reform process and shares his thoughts on the current state of change at the World Bank.

After World Bank President Jim Yong Kim took the reins at the world’s largest multilateral donor in 2012, he didn’t wait long to begin changing the institution’s approach to development through an intensive and controversial reform process.

“I’ve done this before in other organizations, and what I’ve found is that If you know a change has to be made, just do it as quickly as you can, and get it done,” Kim told Devex Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund’s spring meetings in Washington, D.C.

Kim’s reforms, which began in 2013 and are still ongoing, include a dramatic shift in bank structure and a $400 million cut in operational expenses that necessitated staffing cuts.

The former president of Dartmouth College and co-founder of Partners in Health intends to create a leaner, more efficient and effective World Bank that breeds solutions to some of the toughest development challenges.

By moving away from a structure centered on country units and through the introduction of 14 Global Practices — knowledge-based departments centered around sectors, such as health, education and agriculture — Kim intends to make the World Bank more of a knowledge institution that can contribute to what he calls the “science of delivery.”

“We needed to reorganize to make sure that the vast amounts of knowledge in our ranks can be spread and be used in any country that asks for our help in finding a solution to a development problem,” Kim wrote in an email to staff in January, in which he set the end of the fiscal year as the end date for reforms.

But these changes have been met with criticism.

Former World Bank Vice President Ian Goldin told Devex that from his perspective, Kim’s reforms may have gone too far.

“You cannot parachute knowledge into a country if it’s not demand-led,” Goldin warned.

Staff too have raised concerns about how Kim has managed the reforms.

Leading up to last year’s World Bank annual meetings in October, bank staffers who felt they lacked information about the reform process organized a series of protests in the institution’s atrium. And a series of “yellow flyers” posted throughout the bank’s corridors encouraged staff to voice discontent.

These protests were followed by an “improvised” town hall meeting organized by senior management during the annual meetings at which staff had the opportunity to raise questions and voice concerns to the World Bank president.

See more of the conversation between Devex and the World Bank chief, and our coverage of the 2015 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund.

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About the author

  • Jeff tyson 400x400  1

    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.