who will be next World Bank President What will they do


African governments "screwed to the mast" The trotting out of African finance ministers to make ostensibly spontaneous speeches in support of Wolfowitz is turning the stomachs of many observers. Africa, after all, is the region most vulnerable to the whims of the World Bank president ... it all seems rather unseemly. A correspondent (who apparently works at the Bank) summed up many of the concerns in a note to worldbankpresident.org:

Don't you think it's appalling that African governments were screwed to the mast on Saturday to support Paul Wolfowitz, as if he personally were their only hope? Rubbish. He deserves no special credit: any World Bank President would have to work on Africa and it's been long said that Africa--where the world's poor are--provides the World Bank's licence to operate.

Robert McNamara, after all, made his Nairobi speech in 1973 about the misery of Africa and what the world needed to do. Jim Wolfensohn was there all the time, too, and spoke with genuine empathy about the continent and its achievements and challenges.

By contrast, Wolfowitz's first trip to Africa was not when he was at SAIS, or when he was a diplomat, or when was at Defence, but only after he became World Bank President. His interest really got started with Chad-Cameroun, but let's not go there. It's obvious to anyone who thinks about this for an instant that that Mr. Wolfowitz wants to be Mr. Africa so he's no longer Mr. Iraq.

The Europeans aren't buying that: he can't run the Bank effectively and speak about corruption, cronyism and nepotism from the position he put himself in, and tried to hide. You have to walk the talk. Africans know that, and they should not have been so enthusiastic about him yesterday unless what some people say is true: they'd rather have Chinese money with no strings (and no employment for Africans, alas) than IDA funds, which may be just as well, because with Paul Wolfowitz heading the World Bank, there may be no IDA.

I'm imagine his people are saying "we've weathered worse before." That may be, but this time they are wrong. He has to go, and if he will not promptly resign, along with his cronies, he has to be fired.

Soren Ambrose ~ April 16, 2007

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