Jim Yong Kim's 'end poverty' game plan

In truth, it has always been about poverty, not health.

These are the words of World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, alluding to criticism that the bank might focus too much on health under his leadership. Throughout his career, he has devoted only three years to health — and those were the years he was with the World Health Organization, he said in an interview with the Guardian.

In fact, now that he is heading an institution whose mandate is to eradicate poverty, Kim said the “switch” is “really not that much of a stretch.”

“I’ve been doing this all my life and we’re in a bit of the spotlight because of the stuff we did in healthcare but it was really always about poverty,” he told the Guardian.

Kim, who has only recently been opening up about his plans for the bank, said he wants to eradicate poverty. And to make this happen, the bank needs to do a “lot of good, good things in unison,” such as supporting the growth of the private sector while at the same time putting social protection mechanisms, and functioning health and education systems in place. All these should be done in a sustainable manner, he added.

The new president of the World Bank is considering using a similar approach to what he did at WHO in 2003 to get drugs to people with HIV — setting a target of reaching 3 million people by 2005 — to set the “tempo” to eradicate poverty. Although the target was not met on the said date, “it created a sense of urgency.”

Kim, however, is not setting a timeline — at least not yet. But there is “tremendous passion” inside the bank toward meeting the goal, he stressed.

More than a billion people living on less than $1.25 a day are waiting.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.