Jeffrey Sachs, an American economics professor, who has garnered support from a number of smaller nations, including Kenya, Guatemala and Chile, yesterday pulled out to support Dr Kim.
The World Bank’s executive board has said it will select its new head by April 21, when it and the International Monetary Fund meet in Washington DC.
The race to replace Robert Zoellick as the bank’s president comes a year after the controversial fight to run the IMF. Former French finance minister Christine Lagarde’s victory over Agustin Carstens, Mexico’s central bank governor, added to criticism that major emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India, do not have a strong enough voice in the world’s major multilateral institutions.
Dr Kim’s Korean ancestry and a CV built around public health and anthropology is likely to appease those criticisms this time. The US, the World Bank’s largest shareholder, has seen its nominee win the body’s presidency each time there has been a change at the top.
Analysts say a change in the leadership of the bank could herald a major change in an institution that was established to combat global poverty.
With some of its borrowers, such as China and India, now becoming significant economic powers in their own right, the bank’s purpose has become indistinct, according to some.
Eswar Prasad, a former IMF official, said: “The World Bank has been floundering for a while without knowing exactly what its purpose is.”
Should Dr Kim get the job, the bank could sharpen its focus on public health and other development issues.
Born in South Korea, Dr Kim became a US citizen after moving to Iowa with his family at the age of five. Trained both as a doctor and an anthropologist, his career has been built around advancing public health policy.
Besides a spell running the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organisation, Dr Kim co-founded Partners in Health, a charity providing medical services in poor countries. Experts say he is well positioned to advance the World Bank's development role.
Mr Ocampo, minister of finance for Colombia until December 1997, had the backing of Brazil and was keen to stand, but as the deadline for nominations passed tonight had not been put forward.
The Colombian government is said to have been keen to push Mr Ocampo for a position he is more likely to win. He is credited with helping to reform Colombia’s economy as finance minister and was an under secretary-general for economic and social affairs at the United Nations
Dr Okanjo-Iwela became Nigeria's first female finance minister in 2003. She held the role until 2006 and returned to take up the post again in 2008. A respected economist, Dr Okonjo-Iweala won praise for trying to combat the corruption that has bedevilled the west African country.
Should she win the nomination, Dr Okonjo-Iweala would be the first African to run The World Bank. Africa is a continent where much of the World Bank's lending and development work is done.