Washington - World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has abruptly resigned nearly three years ahead of schedule to join a private infrastructure investment firm, setting up a potential clash between the US and other member countries over selecting the head of the world's largest development-finance institution.
His resignation will take effect from February 1.
Kim, 58, has been in this position for over six years now. He was not due to leave until 2022, after he was re-elected for a second five-year term in 2017.
"It has been a great honour to serve as President of this remarkable institution, full of passionate individuals dedicated to the mission of ending extreme poverty in our lifetime," Kim said.
He will "join a firm and focus on increasing infrastructure investments in developing countries", the World Bank said on Monday.
"The work of the World Bank Group is more important now than ever as the aspirations of the poor rise all over the world, and problems like climate change, pandemics, famine and refugees continue to grow in both their scale and complexity,” Kim was quoted as saying in a World Bank press release.
"Serving as President and helping position the institution squarely in the middle of all these challenges has been a great privilege," Kim said.
Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank CEO, will assume the role of interim President effective February 1.
Kim, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, trained as a medical doctor. He later went on to join the World Health Organization as an adviser, later rising in ranks at the World Bank in 2012.
The World Bank said it would "immediately start the process" of appointing a replacement.
Kim's decision to quit for the private sector was described by sources close to the bank as a sudden and "personal decision" that surprised its shareholders – the 189 nations that support its work.
The abrupt resignation could prompt a clash between the Trump administration and other governments over the future of the international body.
Traditionally, the president of the Washington-based World Bank has been nominated by the US, while the head of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund has been picked by European countries.
The practice has drawn criticism from some other nations, who have insisted the bank's focus on providing loans to developing nations requires participation by leaders from other regions.
Former president Barack Obama broke tradition in 2012 by choosing Kim.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly voiced disdain for multilateral institutions and questioned US foreign aid commitments, making it likely his authority to name a new president will be challenged by emerging economies that have in recent decades grown increasingly opposed to US dominance over the global development bank, CNN said.
Under Kim's leadership, the World Bank established two goals: to end extreme poverty by 2030; and to boost shared prosperity, focusing on the bottom 40 percent of the population in developing countries. These goals now guide and inform the institution in its daily work around the globe, it said.