Home > Americas, Economics, USA > The World’s World Bank Problem

The World’s World Bank Problem

Robert Wade writes in openDemocracy:

The fight between the Americans and the Europeans over the fate of Paul Wolfowitz obscured the bigger question of whether the world still needs the World Bank. The immediate contest may be over and Robert Zoellick installed as the new president (nominated by the White House / United States treasury), but the question looms over everything the bank does.

Before addressing this question, however, two points should be made about the Wolfowitz affair. First, the blame for the scandal that brought him down was not entirely on his side, and on its own it would not have led to his departure. In particular, the bank’s ethics committee gave him muddled advice when he approached it about a conflict of interest between him being president and his then romantic partner being a bank employee.

But in any case, the ethics issue became the lightning-rod for much broader anger over the way he was running the bank. He had brought in a small group of lieutenants from the Pentagon and United States vice-president’s office who set about administering the bank in a brutal and highly ideological way. He and they showed undisguised contempt for the senior managers (advised to run an important speech about the bank’s role in governance reform past the relevant vice-presidents to get their buy-in, Wolfowitz replied: “Not past this lot. That would be like casting pearls before swine.”)

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Categories: Americas, Economics, USA
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