who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Mallaby makes it plain: anti-corruption yes, Wolfowitz no. Sebastian Mallaby - former Economist writer and author of a book on previous World Bank president James Wolfensohn - has a clear position in today's Washington Post. In a detailed article he spells out the case for Wolfowitz's departure this week. The Wall Street Journal also has its own prescription for the World Bank's anti-corruption work.

Mallaby argues:

"The World Bank's customers are the poor; and their interests ought to trump the hair-splitting over whether the bank's president, Paul Wolfowitz, overpaid his girlfriend. What matters is that Wolfowitz has lost the confidence of the bank's shareholders, borrowers and staff -- including the support of those who initially welcomed him despite his record on Iraq. He has brought about a collapse in the World Bank's external prestige and internal morale, and he should go quickly".

"The endgame may come this week, at a meeting of the World Bank's board on Wednesday. If Wolfowitz manages to hold on to his job, it will reveal the hypocrisy of the governments to which the bank's board answers".

He knocks down some wrong ideas that have been put about by the Wolfowitz camp. Including that it was the current World Bank president who thought to do something on corruption.

"the biggest misconception about the bank is that it needs the goading force of Wolfowitz to fight graft in poor countries. Even before Wolfowitz arrived in 2005, the bank was trying to plug leaks in government budgets, reform civil services and back new anti-fraud units: From 2000 to 2004 the bank's lending to improve public-sector governance grew 11 percent annually. Wolfowitz's goal was to take these anti-corruption efforts to the next level. The instinct was noble; the implementation horrible".

The bigger question is what level of anti-corruption agenda can the World Bank deal with and implement, given its limited mandate and disfunctional governance.

This is a question tackled by the Wall Street Journal in a feature today. It argues that "anticorruption efforts are here [at the Bank] to stay, and now to some degree institutionalized". Neil King Jr. and Greg Hitt argue that progress is being made on reducing the amount of Bank money lost to graft, including in Kenya. They quote an economist at the Petersen Institute "whoever follows Wolfowitz will have no choice but to keep this anticorruption drive going." I'm sure plenty of people will be sure to let the new president know that anti-corruption begins at home.

Alex Wilks ~ May 14, 2007

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