who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Civil War inside the World Bank... The battle lines in the Wolfowitz-Shaha drama are coming sharper into focus. There are three main constituencies in this battle. Wolfowitz and his small number of supporters whose careers are tied to his, the Staff Association which clearly represents the majority of staff, and the board of executive directors, which represents their respective countries.

It has become very clear yesterday and today ( see HERE, HERE and HERE) that the Staff Association represents the views of not only a small unhappy group, but has broad base support in the entire institution from top to bottom, including former senior staff . Wolfowitz and his group, seem to have only the white house in their corner, and showing all the characteristics of a weasel who does not know what a dignified exit looks like, Wolfowitz still pathetically hangs on to his office, despite the costs to a once respected international institution. . While the board of directors, having been abandoned by their Ministers , who chickened out of making the only possible credible decision at this stage to ask Wolfowitz privately to step down, or vote him out of office publicly, are now struggling, as mid-level bureaucrats of Finance Ministries are known to be, to make a decision bigger than they are. This does not abode well for a global institution and the millions of the poor who depend on it around the world. It is shaping up to be a crisis , far deeper than an "Unacceptable impropriety" , its a crisis that shows the sham of the notion of a capable international community and its deep lack of self respectability to even address the matter decisively.

I'm taking bets that this board of impotent executive directors will only meet tomorrow to figure out a way how not-to-fire Wolfowitz and still maintain some respectably. My bet is that they can't do both. They must choose, Wolfowtz OR a credible World Bank ?

UPDATE. (Comments from a World Bank staffer, submitted by e-mail. Added by Alex Wilks, 19 April, 03.05 EST).
The FT article on the meetings in Regions Wednesday afternoon is a bit off the mark. In Africa (currently 'led' by an acting who has shown himself rather compliant to Robin's and Daboub's wishes, for reasons we won't go into but which may have to do with wanting to be a VP), middle management (who do the work and manage the people, in Washington and in country offices) were vehement he must go, he does Africa no good, the minister props were cheap, etc. Reflects what staff in Africa, and everywhere else, are saying.

Africa Region Directors (rank below VP) were more guarded, presumably waiting for the new, PW-appointed VP (founder of TI Nigeria, "Mme Due Process", with the conservative evangelical husband) to know which way the wind would blow in a post-Wolfowitz--or maybe not--change of management in Africa. As Obey looked like the first qualified PW appointment, there was some hope, even though the haste between finding her and sending her reference checks to Juan-Jose Daboub and announcing her appointment was breathtaking. Much like having 24-hour turnaround to find outside counsel for the Bank to negotiate Shaha's sweet deal. Interesting it took just 24-hours for PW to find a outside counsel for him to replace Robert Danino in contract "negotiations" with Shaha, but two months for Ana Palacio to find outside counsel for the Board to check out the leaks to Fox News. Of course, since everyone suspects they came from the only person with access to the drafts, no familiarity with how well discussions with the Board were actually going on GAC and Fox News on her BlackBerry's speed dial, Mr. Wolfowitz was perhaps in no hurry, having fought tooth and nail not to have the leaks investigated.

Legal staff are gleeful about Ana Palacio's scrape with legal ethics and hiring outside counsel, and her lame 'clarification' on her choice of Williams & Connolly which got disdainful reviews on the in-house bulletin board this afternoon. (That was on a part of the Bank's Intranet that does not have a write-in comment section, but late in the day it had crept up to only two stars out of five and she was being called on to resign on the main "Spring Meetings Wrap-up" item where Internal Communications had moved the discussion mid-afternoon.) Like PW, Ana's limiting outside appearances, not travelling to Tunis this weekend for the annual get-together of the IFIs' general counsels. She'll be leaving soon enough, most believe.

No one has been by 1800 G Street to check out what Shaha's office looks like, and none of the Bank staff who work in that building (across the street) report having been greeted--warmly or not--in the elevator by their old colleague.

A country director who was at the lunch said that Mr. Wolfowitz came with a prepared pep talk (funny, that) including apologizing (again). Pressed, he reverted to the "I got bad advice and it was an unprecedented situation", which created some problems since it's country directors' spouses who have to give up their jobs, and careers, unlike Shaha. As the questioning continued about the circumstances under which he must might resign, out came the retort that "if I'm pushed out, the Bank will be terribly damaged". Most of them concluded at that point that he was "delusional" about the situation, and the damage he'd done and would continue to do.

Word is circulating, as well, that not one of the VPs supported his staying, with varying degrees of diplomacy. None. Zero. Their frank talk yesterday continued this morning, and while not all agreed Graeme Wheeler's reasons PW should leave were the best ones, everyone agreed they were compelling, and delivered with feeling and persuasion, nonetheless. One VP apparently told Wolfowitz "I've fired people for less than that."

Thursday should be interesting. Wolfowitz has told the board he won't be chairing the 10 am meeting, which had a light agenda anyway. The board is reported to be meeting in private at 4, which gives them time to see if a third newspaper can be found to support him, anywhere in the world. Juan-Jose Daboub will deliver a 10 minute welcome to yet another learning event ("Capacity Day") and everyone's waiting to see whether, like Wolfowitz on Monday, he blows off the photo op. People aren't planning to absent themselves from the room tomorrow during his remarks, since it may be his last public appearance before the coalition of reproductive rights groups, AIDS activists and environmental NGOs push him over the side with Wolfowitz during their meeting this weekend in Washington.

Must go to check the blue ribbons for tomorrow. One to wear, one to give to a colleague.

A Washington source ~ April 19, 2007

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