Wolfowitz and the world bank

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Vaneigemappreci...
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Mar 30 2005 14:24
Wolfowitz and the world bank

Wolfowitz wins European backing

Mr Wolfowitz has been a controversial choice

Paul Wolfowitz looks set to be confirmed as new head of the World Bank at a meeting in New York on Thursday, after tying up Europe's backing.

The US deputy defence secretary's nomination stirred controversy, given his key role in the Iraq war and his lack of development experience.

But after a meeting on Wednesday in Brussels, European leaders said they expected his nomination to succeed.

Europe is hoping to secure one of the two vacant vice-presidential posts.

Status quo

Mr Wolfowitz's nomination by the White House - coming soon after veteran unilateralist John Bolton was nominated as an ambassador to the UN - was seen in some quarters as an attempt to further bend a multilateral body to US demands.

So following Wednesday's talks, he was at pains to reassure doubters that under his management the Bank's development agenda would remain paramount.

There's some impressive people in the developing world, and I'm going to need all the help I can get

Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank presidential nominee

"I understand that I'm to put it mildly a controversial figure," he said, "but I hope as people get to know me that they will understand that I really do believe deeply in the mission of the bank.

"It's a... unifying mission, and frankly that's going to be fun."

He promised to seek a "truly multinational" management team - but would not give Europe an unequivocal promise on the deputy's post.

The top team "needs to reflect the fact that the European countries as a group are the largest single donors to the Bank," he said.

"But it also needs to reflect the full diversity of donors and recipients," he added. "There's some impressive people in the developing world, and I'm going to need all the help I can get."

Worries

Among critics have been unnamed Bank staff and a range of non-governmental organisations.

Both got a nod from Mr Wolfowitz, who described his future staff as "an extraordinary group of international professionals" and promised to continue "reaching out and paying attention to the views of non-governmental organisations".

The US has traditionally been allowed to fill the World Bank presidency, while Europe has controlled the top job at the International Monetary Fund.

Several high-profile international roles are up for grabs in the coming months, and European candidates are among the front runners.

We have to make sure that Europeans will be represented in a better way on the managing board of the Bank

Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg prime minister

With that in mind, European leaders are proving unwilling to break with current efforts to rebuild trans-Atlantic relationships following the disagreements over Iraq.

Development goals

Even so, the disquiet in Europe has been tangible amid fears that the United Nations' push to halve world poverty by 2015 - to which the Bank is committed, but which is already well behind schedule - could be further sidelined.

The concern prompted Luxembourg, the current holder of the European Union's presidency, to organise the meeting 24 hours ahead of the Bank board's vote.

"We have to make sure that the Millennium Development Goals are the basis on which the incoming president of the World Bank organises his work," said Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of the talks.

"We have to make sure that Europeans will be represented in a better way on the managing board of the Bank."

After the meeting, however, he referred to Mr Wolfowitz as "the incoming president of the World Bank" - confirming Europe's backing

what does this mean for the policy of the world bank, will having one of the architects of the 'New American Century' in a position of such monumental power make the institution any worse or dmaging to the global working class? What can we expect? Was Greenspan any better? Also, how does the World Bank actually affect the everyday lives of people in Britain?

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Mar 30 2005 14:31

I actually think it's a fairly trivial appointment. The World Bank's impact in the developing world is already utterly noxious, and it's not the kind of institution that's very vulnerable to significant reform anyway. International institutions have so many different inputs from their investors that they tend to develop an inertia independent of all of them for the most part dictated by the bureaucrats on staff.

If anything Wolfowitz will emerge as a focus for people who are already hostile to international economic institutions (I wouldn't recommend Latin America as a holiday destination for Mr.Wolfowitz in the coming years). But the only people who this will worry is those that have hope in the world bank as an institution that can alleviate world poverty; the likes of Clare Short for instance.