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World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announces surprise early resignation

Melinda Gates on fighting technological inequality

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has abruptly resigned almost three years ahead of schedule to join a private infrastructure investment firm, setting up a potential clash between the United States and other member countries over selecting the head of the world's largest development-finance institution.

Kim, 59, said that he will immediately join a firm and focus on increasing infrastructure in developing countries.

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva will serve as interim president upon Kim's February 1 departure, the bank said in a statement.

The president's national-security adviser, John Bolton, wrote an article in 2016 in which he cited arguments for privatizing the World Bank, while Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs David Malpass has questioned why the bank lends so much money to China when the nation already has access to global financial markets. But in April, the lender won support from its member countries for a $13 billion capital increase, after the US dropped its objections.

During Kim's tenure, the bank also emphasised its private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, which critics said increasingly channeled funds to projects that otherwise would not have met World Bank environmental and social guidelines.

Trump's role will resurrect and strengthen challenges to the post-World War II model of the leadership of the 189-member bank that has always been determined by the US. "The details of this new position will be announced shortly".

The Trump administration may face resistance from other countries if the president puts forward a candidate openly hostile to the bank, he said.

Kim was previously president of Dartmouth College and head of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organisation.

Kim was born in Seoul and grew up in Iowa.

The World Bank said Mr Kim had emphasised that infrastructure finance was one of the greatest needs in the developing world and had pushed the bank to work with a new cadre of private sector partners on "sustainable, climate-smart infrastructure".

The bank president has traditionally been an American chosen by the USA administration, but some of the multilateral lender's 189 member countries could mount a new challenge with alternative candidates.