“A cavalier interest in developing countries” – Jagdish Bhagwati

One of the best pieces yet on Zoellick’s time at CSIS and as US trade representative.  Bizarrely, liberal economist Jagdish Bhagwati has accused Zoellick of pushing free trade at the expense of development: “He was using bilateral deals with Chile and Singapore to try to ram through restrictions on the use of capital controls,” Bhagwati says. “I can’t think of a single developmental economist who would say this is a good idea, and it suggests a cavalier interest in developing countries.”

Que sera, sera! Zoellick and Shaha at the WB

In its section of “l’homme de la semaine” (Man of the week!) of last week’s edition (No 2421), JEUNE AFRIQUE describes the man who will be the next president of the World Bank. I realize that he is just a nominee but I do consider it a “fait accompli” since the buzz about other prospects has died down and the man in question seems to be the de facto candidate. The article, written by Alain Faujas, the Washington-based correspondent of Le Monde, gives a good overview of what we have read in the North American and British media since the announcement. A translated version, graciously provided by a reader, can be read here. However, in the same edition, we have the best part from Sonia Mabrouk who asks the question:”And Shaha in all that ?” Looks like it is splitsville between Shaha and Wolfowitz! According to the writer: “in this terrible business of nepotism, he has lost everything: his job as President, the respect of the majority of his collaborators and even…..the recipient of his undue favours“. Continue reading

Zoellick in Ghana, Ethiopia.

Zoellick started the first leg of his African trip in Ghana on Wednesday. Ghanaian newspapers reported that Zoellick met with the ministers of finance of Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso and “discussed not countries but regional dimension of projects such as the West African Gas Pipeline“. While in Ghana he also met with vice president Alhaji Aliu Mahama, energy minister John Adda, chairman of the public utilities regulation commission, Kwame Pianim, and with some civil society organisations, “all behind closed doors”. Continue reading

Deeper Questions about Pay and Rations at the World Bank

OK, confession time. I grew up in a World Bank household. My mother started working there when I was two; my father joined the International Finance Corporation when I was four. As a child I heard snippets of conversation about West African travels and poverty around the world. I also picked up talk of “golden handshakes” and benefits such as my own private school education being subsidized by the Bank. At some later point, I hope to capture a lot of these contradictions in a book. At the moment, it’s worthwhile asking whether these benefits and high salaries are necessary for an institution that claims to be about “poverty reduction”. In this article, Wolfowitz’s Golden Parachute, I look at Wolfowitz’s attempt to take these policies to an extreme, and argue that it’s time to end the hypocrisy.

Wolfowitz and Riza–Behind the Scenes Today

Paul Wolfowitz’s surprising–and seemingly ineffective–character reference for his protégé Scooter Libby, read to a captivated court at Libby’s sentencing hearing, should remind us of the unfinished HR business at the Bank. Nominee Robert Zoellick launches his worldwide listening tour and charm tour, but let’s not forget the housecleaning that everyone’s anticipating to get them, and the post-Wolfowitz Bank, back to work.

Reread Voice of Reason’s May 14 “watch what Shaha Riza and Paul Wolfowitz do, not what they say.” This insightful piece during the drama put some context around Shaha’s career at the Bank. Her contribution was not, ahem, quite as Paul Wolfowitz believed, and would have had the Board believe. His handling of his lover’s career was the incident that helped unravel his deeply flawed presidency.

Shaha is desperately negotiating her return to the Bank now that the conflict of interest–Wolfowitz–is about to be removed.  It’s not finished, though, until the Bank and State complete their investigations into Bank employee Shaha’s jaunt to Iraq, apparently as an employee of defence contractor SAIC.

It now seems that it was apparently Shaha advising Wolfowitz not to resign and how to handle the Board and others so aggressively right up to the end. We always thought it was Robin Cleveland (banished to a broom closet but still very much on Bank premises) but it was just as much Shaha all the way along. Continue reading

Zoellick’s Global Consultations–Something Missing?

The Treasury Department has issued a press release documenting nominee Bob Zoellick’s peripatetic visits to Africa, Europe and Latin America on a ‘charm surge’ to meet with Bank stakeholders. After his words about the need for healing, what is conspicuous by its absence is any meeting with Bank staff during his 15 day trip, which is being cofinanced by US taxpayers and his own frequent flyer points.

It perhaps behooves Mr. Zoellick and his handlers to indicate when he will talk to Bank staff and management, who need to get a measure of the man and whether his leadership skills and management style are an upgrade from what the world has put up with for these last two long years. He also needs to confirm whether he has some outsiders coming with him to the Bank, and what exactly they will be helping with.

It is surprising that the global NGOs who have raised concerns about his old jobs (advocating for protected farmers, global trade liberalization, Big Pharma, and Goldman Sachs) have not sought time on his agenda.

Presumably there is lots of time between his return and the Board’s interviews and formal consideration of his nomination (and any others) for him to meet with Bank staff and civil society to answer their questions and show he has “the right stuff” to be World Bank President.

When will the rest of his schedule be announced?

Continue reading

Environmental ‘hero’?

Steve Clemons on The Washington Note blog writes that “Zoellick was one of the ‘heroes’ who got the US government to sign on to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Zoellick headed the US effort and was the guide for EPA Administrator William Reilly through that effort. Clemons adds that he has spoken with “a number of environmental leaders at organisations such as the World Resources Institute who have said that Zoellick has been actively engaged with them – from the early 1990s up until now”. Cue that panda photo.

Zoellick appointment “grotesque” – Bachelet.

South Africa’s Independent Online reports that Chilean president Michelle Bachelet criticised the decision by the US administration to nominate yet another American to head the World Bank as “grotesque”. South African president Thabo Mbeki is also quoted as saying at the International Monetary Conference (a gathering of the world’s top officials from private and central banks) on the weekend that “future appointments should be made using an open and transparent selection process with candidates not restricted by nationality.” Continue reading

Four Questions for Bob Zoellick

Lawrence MacDonald at the Center for Global Development has some insightful questions for Bob Zoellick. Among them (mine are the abridged versions): Will you oppose U.S. subsidies and the enforcemet of Intellectual Property Rights for lifesaving medicines? Will you go continue moving the Bank’s health sector towards Bush’s inane abstinence only policies? Continue reading