Pedro Pablo Kuczynski *61
Courtesy PCM Peru via Flickr

Banking is a fairly common field that Princeton alumni pursue, but former Wall Street and World Bank executive Pedro Pablo Kuczynski *61 had bigger aspirations: Last week, he was sworn in as the president of Peru.

Kuczynski plans to use his business background to boost the economy and to lower poverty rates in the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kuczynski said in his inauguration speech, “What does it mean to be a modern country? It means that the inequality between the poorest and the richest should be closed by lifting the incomes of the poorest… I’m committed so that no one who escapes poverty returns to it.”

Kuczynski also plans to cut taxes, which would reduce the informal market and increase the formal market, and he aims to invest in infrastructure and the mining economy, which has slowed in recent years.

It was a very close election for Kuczynski, winning by a margin of only 14,000 votes out of 7 million cast in a runoff against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of former president Alberto Fujimori. The elder Fujimori put down a Marxist rebellion during his time in office but was later sentenced to 25 years in jail for human rights abuses and corruption.

Kuczynski has appointed cabinet members mostly like himself — well-educated technocrats with a background in finance, not government, such as his Prime Minister Fernando Zavala, who was a director at Interbank, one of Peru’s biggest banks, and finance minster Alfredo Thorne, a former managing director at JP Morgan. Ricardo Luna ’62, a former ambassador and recent visiting fellow in Princeton’s Program in Latin American Studies, was sworn in as Peru’s new minister of foreign affairs.

Kuczynski will face challenges to his agenda in congress — his party holds only 18 out of the 130 seats, while 73 belong to the opposing Popular Force party. “He’s only going to be able to do what Keiko also wants him to do,” Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Group, an investment firm, told Institutional Investor. “We wished he came in with a majority, because then it would be exciting.”

Born in Lima, Kuczynski is the son of a German physician and a French scholar. His father, Maxime, “is widely credited with having helped eliminate leprosy in Peru,” according to Bloomberg. The family also experienced the tumult of the nation’s politics when Maxime was imprisoned following a military coup in 1948.

At Princeton, Kuczynski received his master’s of public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School. Before assuming the presidency, he spent time at the World Bank and Peru’s central bank, and he has previous government experience, serving as prime minister from 2005-06 and economy and mining minster from 2001-02 and 2004-05.