• Fri
  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 9:58pm

World Bank chief a liability and has to go

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am

Paul Wolfowitz confounded some critics of his appointment as World Bank president, not that the neoconservative Bush loyalist and key architect of the Iraq invasion appeared troubled by his detractors.


To be sure, he upset senior bank officials by finding jobs for his cronies and political allies. But he earned respect for visiting almost every corner of the developing world and for engaging with the bank's development aid clients on their many different problems. Throw in a growing consensus within the bank on aid policy, including debt cancellation, and the elevation of climate change and carbon trading - hardly pet neocon subjects - on the bank's agenda, and the jury was still out on his appointment.


Alas, he has now confounded those who were prepared to wait and see. With a personal blunder that reeks of hypocrisy, the man who has preached good governance and clean government around the developing world has destroyed his own credibility and put the bank's moral authority in jeopardy.


When Dr Wolfowitz was appointed he became his girlfriend Shaha Ali Riza's boss. The bank board rightly resolved the conflict of interest by seconding her to the US State Department. But she went there on astonishingly generous terms. Now it turns out Dr Wolfowitz dictated them to the bank's human resources chief.


Dr Wolfowitz's crusade against corruption in high places, and for good governance, was fundamental to effective development policies. He could hardly have done anything more calculated to undermine it. He has apologised for the lapse. But it remains to be seen whether the influence of his old boss US President George W. Bush will save his job when the bank's board meets this weekend.


After he helped unleash the US war machine against Iraq without waiting for hard evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that have never been found, Dr Wolfowitz told an interviewer: 'You can't wait until you have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.'


The World Bank board need not wait because there are no doubts. If the institution's credibility in the developing world counts for anything, Dr Wolfowitz is a liability it can no longer afford.


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