who will be next World Bank President What will they do
 
 

     
 

Hiding behind Africa Andrew Young, an op-ed in Monday's Washington Post leading to a penultimate paragraph that looks as if Bob Bennett, Paul Wolfowitz's spokesman, was busy over the weekend pushing the "it's a small matter, really, nothing to get upset about" argument, speaks about the distinguished American's travels with Paul Wolfowitz in Africa. The facts are somewhat less flattering.

Paul Wolfowitz went to Africa for the first time in his long life in international affairs, only after he got the job at the World Bank, a conspicious statement of where his priorities were. There, he has used his World bank position for relentless photo ops and tourist ventures into Africa ever since.

Why? So he could re-label himself as "Mr. I Help Africa" instead of "Mr. Blood on My Hands Iraq". Thousands of dollars have been spent on this utterly deliberate "24/7"'media campaign, under the direction of Kevin Kellems. The World Bank website was forced to carry story after story about him, far out of proportion to what was newsworthy. Photographers and video cameras accompanied PW everywhere while he learned the simple basics about Africa that every other development expert already knew. Preparation for these trips took up so much time that country directors were left trying to figure out how to avoid his self-centered visits so that their entire operation would not be tied up and hijacked for weeks on end. Their work programs literally stopped to accommodate his imperial needs, his security detail, his videographer, his entourage (Robin Cleveland often tagged along when maybe she should have been working on the budget and strategy, three times rejected by the Board.)

And when "President Wolfowitz" arrived, he never even asked what he could do to help them with the government, as Jim Wolfensohn always did ("What do you want me to say or do? What do you need? Use me"). He made fatuous statements on arrival, as if he was a head of state. Journalists complained of "Arrival Statement Spam".

African governments have a problem speaking out right now. The important countries with independent means have been CONSPICIOUSLY SILENT: no comment from South Africa's Trevor Manuel beyond the most neutral ("The Board process should proceed.'). No support has been offered. Same with Nigeria.

The smaller client states that depend on World Bank loans for their stability (think of all the bunched up African loans now pending at the Board before end of year) were been forced and manuevered into compromising statements during the Spring Meetings, and any diplomatic nuance they may have tried to use in them has been stripped out in the stories posted on the World Bank website. (External Affairs professional staff complained bitterly about being ordered to post an article on the Bank's official website during the Spring Meetings with the headline, ""African Leaders Support Wolfowitz". ) The small states are hostages.

And the states with corrupt leaders are leaning back, enjoying the spectacle, knowing that the next time the World Bank country director walks in to say that they have to deal with nepotism, favouritism, public sector reform, ghost workers or corruption, well, they will just be able to say, "Clean your own house first." This has been much commented on in the African press and by civil society, and in a stinging editorial in the newspaper of record in Kenya.

Bottom line is that any head of the World Bank will champion Africa, that is the job description right now. This president is a neophyte on the issues and utterly expendable.

In fact, the future of IDA depends on it. There is no way to raise $30 billion from the US Congress and other parliaments with Paul Wolfowitz at the helm of the World Bank.

Deep Insider ~ April 30, 2007


 
 
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