who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Unprecedented rancor. U.S. newspapers are helping out with reading the diplomatic language employed in Sunday's Development Committee statement and press conference. Steven Weisman of the New York Times finds that "Bank and finance officials said they could not recall any time in the history of the bank when there was such an open and rancorous rift between its president and the people who are supposed to run the institution in cooperation with him."

Weisman interprets: "The rebuke of Mr. Wolfowitz came in the form of bureaucratic language in a series of sentences in the board’s communiqué that asserted 'the current situation is of great concern to all of us,' an unusually blunt statement for a circumspect institution. [...] Though the language was indirect, the message it sent was unmistakable, according to officials who have been meeting in Washington the last few days. 'Words like ‘concerned,’ ‘credibility’ and ‘reputation’ are pretty unprecedented for a communiqué from a place like the World Bank,' said an official involved in the drafting of the statement."

And if Wolfowitz is not so adept at hearing the intended message -- or refuses to acknowledge what he should see -- he may get some help from Europe. "European officials close to the bank said that if anything, Mr. Wolfowitz’s apparent dismissal of the criticism on Sunday would increase the determination of the wealthy European donor nations of the bank — especially Britain, France and Germany — that he needed to step aside for the good of the bank."

That effort may well involve Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury Secretary, who is described as being at pains to look fair and neutral (even as he insisted the U.S. supports Wolfowitz in his first comments on Friday.) "Bank officials and others close to the executive board said they hoped that Mr. Paulson, who they said mostly listened to complaints about Mr. Wolfowitz over the past three days and counseled patience on his future, would play a crucial role in persuading him to step down. A senior European official in the meetings said this was possible because Mr. Paulson went along with a communiqué that criticized Mr. Wolfowitz."

Weisman also says that Wolfowitz's email to World Bank staff with links to a carefully-chosen selection of relevant documents (criticized by the WB staff association as misleading) has likely "backfired."

But the Washington Post says that the Staff Association's strategy itself may have backfired: "Sources close to the executive directors, speaking on the condition of anonymity while the matter remains undecided, said the board is reluctant to appear to cave to the staff and take the unprecedented step of firing a president."

But the Post, like the NYT, concludes that the consensus hope is that Wolfowitz will come to the right conclusion on his own: "But a majority believes it would be "best if he decided on his own" to resign, one source said."

Soren Ambrose ~ April 16, 2007

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