WASHINGTON Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. nominee to head the World Bank, told the institution's board of directors on Wednesday he would not hesitate to question the status quo and do his best to help the world's poorest.
In a 2 1/2-page address made public by the Treasury Department, Kim outlined the reasons why he believed he was the best candidate for the job, and later in the day received the backing of the Mexican government, the first Latin American country to do so.
In his address, Kim said his qualifications as a public health expert and former president of Dartmouth College equipped him with the skills needed to take over the World Bank in June when the current president, Robert Zoellick, steps down.
"You would find in me someone who asks hard questions about the status quo and is not afraid to challenge existing orthodoxies," Kim said. "I'd bring rigor, objectivity and a focus on data that help all of us define and achieve our shared vision of securing strong economic growth and delivering greater opportunity for the world's poor," he said.
Kim was expected to undergo a round of questioning from bank directors as the two other contenders for the job - Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian Finance Minister Jose Antonio Ocampo - have already done.
A decision on Zoellick's successor is to be made public by the time the bank and its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund, hold semi-annual meetings in Washington from April 20 to 22.
Kim has been on a world tour that has taken him to Asia and Latin America to meet finance leaders and to try to drum up support for his U.S.-backed candidacy.
In Mexico, Deputy Finance Minister Gerardo Rodriguez issued a statement saying his government planned to vote for Kim, one day after he met officials in Mexico City.
"We had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Kim during his visit to Mexico yesterday and we are convinced that he's the best candidate to lead the institution," Rodriguez said.
A leading global financial journal, The Economist, said in a recent edition it thought Okonjo-Iweala was better qualified to take over the World Bank than Kim. The journal cited her experience in economics and finance and rated it as superior to Kim's background.
(Reporting By Glenn Somerville, Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Peter Cooney)