Wolfowitz hits media trail to spread blame for exit

Paul Wolfowitz has given an exclusive interview to the BBC World Service to try to explain why he is leaving the World Bank. He says the media and an overheated atmosphere were to blame, and uses his airtime to justify his record at the Bank in general and on the Riza affair. He refuses to be drawn on how his successor should be chosen but agrees that African countries are “under-represented” at the Bank.

Responding to a question about whether he was hounded out because people did not like him or his track record, Wolfowitz commented: “I think it tells us more about the media than about the bank. People were reacting to a whole string of inaccurate statements and by the time we got to anything approximating accuracy the passions were around the bend.” (Listen to the interview here).

He makes a jab at the “wonderful comfortable conditions in Washington” where Bank staff operate, says the good Bank staff are those working in the field, and agrees the Bank has some “governance issues” that need addressing.

When the interviewer asked how Wolfowitz’s successor should be chosen the outgoing president ducked rapidly, saying that his opinion would not be worth much.

He also ducked various other questions about his difficulties at the Bank which led to his ejection. He preferred, he said, to look to the future. This, according to the interview, will consist of Wolfowitz working on development in either a philanthropic or private sector capacity.

Commenting on the interview on BBC Radio 4 (listen here) Professor Robert Wade of the London School of Economics gave a clear account of the reasons why Wolfowitz had to walk. Wade spoke of Wolfowitz’s “undisguised contempt for the World Bank’s management” and of the “brutal and often arbitrary decisions” Wolfowitz’s lieutenants brought in from the Pentagon and U.S. Vice President’s office. Wade’s carefully chosen formula was that the World Bank president had a “simplistic” view of corruption in developing countries and had himself “corrupted the World Bank’s checks and balances”.

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