who will be next World Bank President What will they do


Photos from Action at World Bank These photos from Thursday's "one-horse race" outside the World Bank, protesting the confirmation of Wolfowitz, give a sense of the crowd of journalists who came to watch.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 11:44 PM

U.S. Anti-War Movement Denounces Wolfowitz at World Bank United for Peace and Justice, the largest coalition in the United States opposing Bush's Iraq policy, issued a statement decrying the new, more blatant links between military and economic domination signalled by Wolfowitz's new job.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 09:37 PM

Activists Stage One-Horse Race at World Bank Washington-based activists staged a "one-horse race" outside the World Bank at 10 am on Thursday, just as the Executive Directors were taking their seats, holding their noses, and preparing to consent to Wolfowitz's nomination. Our race reflected the absence of democracy in the process -- only one horse ran -- and he won!

We're mentioned in several press articles, but here you can see the press release we issued at the time of the action, and of course there are photos and more photos.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 09:30 PM

Wolfowitz is Crowned The long international nightmare is over -- well, no, it's only just beginning. "The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors today unanimously confirmed the nomination of Paul D. Wolfowitz to be President of the World Bank." So says the press release posted on the World Bank's website.

To read Wolfowitz's reaction -- and Wolfensohn's -- the World Bank provides a separate release. Finally, the ceremonial picture of the two men shaking hands, suitable for mocking, is posted on the Bank's homepage. But the full-size version can be found here.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 09:04 PM

Inspired choice. "Critic after critic howls for the heads of the architects of the Iraq war, and above all for the head of the man the European media call "Paul Vulfovitz," as though he were a villain in a John Buchan novel," writes David Frum - the man who half-coined the phrase 'axis of evil'.

"So what does the president do? He names this Vulfovitz to run the World Bank — a job that the world's do-gooders and bleeding hearts have long regarded as their exclusive domain. Take that!"

Posted by David Steven at 02:22 PM

Preposterous carve-up. Bob Geldof chimes in: "The way that's carved up is preposterous.

"The American president is allowed to nominate the president of the World Bank. It's our money. It's all our money. It's the World Bank."

Posted by David Steven at 02:16 PM

We're back! No, it wasn't a plot - just a surge in traffic that took us over our monthly bandwidth allowance.

And our web host's 24 hour technical support couldn't put us back online until we'd paid more money to their billing department... which didn't open until 10 am on the US east coast. Many apologies...

Posted by David Steven at 02:14 PM

EU Ministers duck meeting with Wolfowitz The EU summoned Paul Wolfowitz to Brussels to explain himself, but when he got there he found that only 7 of the 25 member countries sent representatives of ministerial rank, reports the Financial Times. One EU official called the showing "a fiasco" and "truly humiliating." Maybe they just wanted to see if he'd come when they called.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 12:36 AM

EU compliant; Wolfowitz resists firm promises The International Herald-Tribune and Reuters, among others, are carrying the news that Wolfowitz's meeting with EU ministers went smoothly, and that his ratification tomorrow at the World Bank board meeting is assured.

With little else to report for the moment, the focus seemed to fall on Wolfowitz's acknowledgment that he's "controversial" and the fact that though he spoke frequently of a "multinational" management team, he did not firmly commit to giving the Europeans the #2 position. The IHT reports also on several top positions at the WB that are currently unoccupied.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 12:27 AM

Up against the wall. Indymedia is none too pleased by EU support for Wolfie:

"The fact that the European Union shows it true face by endorsing inhumanity and allowing creatures like Wolfowitz and his World Bank gangsters to operate unharmed, shows the electorate in Europe at what low level many of their so called 'EU reps' crawl and creep...

"Those people criminally involved, in Belgium, the Netherlands (the criminal 'managers') and in the rest of the European Union: all who took part should be remembered as the war criminals they are, even endorsing World Bank atrocities, and as soon as is possible be brought to justice."

Posted by David Steven at 05:15 PM

All but official. "The prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, made it all but official when he described Mr Wolfowitz as the 'incoming president of the World Bank'," the Guardian writes.

Posted by David Steven at 03:05 PM

Countdown to Coronation Today -- Wednesday -- Paul Wolfowitz is on his way to Brussels to meet with European development and finance ministers. (The meeting has been re-located from Luxembourg -- some Low Country rivalry apparently.) That "low-key" meeting, which will, it is promised, be followed by no press conference or announcement, takes place the day before the World Bank board is scheduled to vote on his nomination. Acceptance is virtually certain, as is much holding of noses. We also understand that activists will be ridiculing the process outside the Bank as the Directors take their seats. Check worldbankpresident.org for all the latest news.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 04:18 AM

Wolfowitz hires "'wild-eyed' conservative as key assistant The Financial Times reports that Paul Wolfowitz has already hired Robin Cleveland to help with his transition from military boss to international bureaucrat. She is described as a well-known ideologue, deeply involved in the Iraq fiasco, and with little experience relevant to development (but hey, that didn't stop Wolfowitz).

Cleveland has been accompanying Wolfowitz on his meetings with WB Executive Directors, which is said to have caused "concern" for some at the WB. She has also been linked to some of the Defense Department scandals over the last year, though not as a central player.

Although the job is said to be temporary, and she is on leave from her full-time position at the Office of Management & Budget, reports that she has recused herself from any decisions touching on World Bank business there suggest she may be preparing for a permanent move to Wolfowitz's suite.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 04:14 AM

French to nominate Jouyet for #2 WB position Acting quickly on the reported deal the EU made to support Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank, Dow Jones reports (subscription required to view article) that France will nominate Jean-Pierre Jouyet, head of the Paris Club, to occupy a new #2 position at the World Bank. (The Paris Club is the association of wealthy creditor countries that cooperate on debt rescheduling and cancellation for impoverished countries.)

The EU countries are the only bloc with enough power to prevent Wolfowitz from becoming WB President. This is what they get in exchange for endorsing the mastermind of the Iraq war.

"The appointment [...] may temper concerns that Wolfowitz could use the bank presidency as a pulpit to forward U.S. President George W. Bush's global agenda," reports DJ.

But as our own David Steven tells DJ, cutting out the Global South from the power equation is a pretty dubious way of doing that. "'The Europeans are stitching together a cozy deal with the U.S. I don't see where that leaves the developing countries and the rest of the world,' said David Steven, a founder of worldbankpresident.org, a Web site dedicated to development issues."

The French are quick to reassure us that they're not insisting on Jouyet. "France is open to other nominations too. France would back 'a European or a developing country deputy. This would have to be discussed first with fellow Europeans and then with Wolfowitz.'"

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 03:51 AM

What do the Germans get? So George sweet talks Tony, and pays off Jacques, which leaves the question - what did Gerhard get?

Posted by David Steven at 06:01 PM

Jouyet for chair. We hear that the French will soon nominate Jean-Pierre Jouyet as Wolfowitz's number 2 at the World Bank. This confirms suspicions that Europeans governments were prepared to nod through Wolfie's appointment in return for a tawdry favour or two.

Jouyet is Chairman of the Paris Club - an informal group of creditor nations. Other reports suggest that Jean-Pierre Landau has also been considered for the job.

Posted by David Steven at 05:35 PM

The staff speak. The Staff Association 'confidential comment line' has received 1300 responses, of which 8% were favorable or neutral to the appointment (in line with our poll).

"The majority of respondents raised concerns about Bank reputation and effectiveness, the nominee's qualifications, multilateralism (Bank independence from US policy and the war in Iraq), the selection process and even the role of the Staff Association," the Association writes in an email to staff.

Posted by David Steven at 07:11 AM

"Wolfowitz's strength is that he'll make the bank a tool of U.S. policy" In his weekly column Sebastian Mallaby, the Washington Post editorial board member and columnist who just weeks ago labelled the Wolfowitz nomination "Christmas" for activists who could now join anti-war and anti-Bank causes (see previous posting), has come on board the Wolfowitz train. Some more of his reasoning:

"The World Bank is an effective institution partly because it's based in Washington, dominated by U.S.-trained economists and run by a U.S. appointee (although that appointee need not himself have been American). Because of this affinity with the world's most successful society, the bank's advice on how to become a successful society is generally sensible."

No, he's not American. He's British.

Anyone who detects some slipperiness in Mallaby's reasoning might also be amused by his blockbuster book, The World's Banker, published in 2004, timed for the likely denouement of Wolfensohn's time at the Bank. Apart from the many amusing observations about Wolfensohn himself, the book mounts a deliberately misleading, ideologically-loaded attack on non-governmental organizations critical of the Bank.

Because of his relative prominence, or power, at the Post, the book got a lot of attention, advancing Mallaby's project of discrediting the global justice movement. Rebuttals to his sloppy research and analysis were easy to develop, but of course did not achieve the same sort of visibility. Looks like he's getting ready to serve a new master.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 06:51 PM

Horse-Trading Continues The Financial Times has a front-page (at least in the U.S.) article today confirming the reports that the EU countries want a European put in a top position at the Bank in exchange for supporting Wolfowitz. As the FT notes, this could mean the awkward downgrading of the current #2, Shengman Zhang, of China. The UK Treasury is quoted as saying that it is "sceptical" of any deal made by the US and EU that leaves out developing countries. But French and German officials seem insistent.

The Germans are said to see such a position as making up for the recent departure of Peter Woicke as head of the IFC, the Bank's private-sector division. There has been little speculation about a permanent replacement for Woicke (no www.worldbankvicepresidentfortheifc.org site -- yet) -- so would that mean another German in that slot would satisfy the EU? Probably not.

Alex Wilks shines, again, both as the only person willing to be quoted by name, and for his analysis of the meaning of adding a new spot for a European: “This would be a further perversion of the appointment process. It would extend the job carve-up to the top four posts at the World Bank and IMF for Americans and Europeans.”

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 06:27 PM

Wolfowitz in Indonesia Asked to offer evidence that Wolfowitz has an interest or aptitude for development, the Bush Administration's answer has been to point to his tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia in the late 1980s. The Washington Post has now researched that era, and comes up with a number of contradictory observations. He was either absent on the human rights issue, or working on it subtly and behind-the-scenes. He was either overly friendly with Suharto or preventing him from profiting from food relief contracts. And so on.

The article also features a quote from Emil Salim, who was in Suharto's cabinet in the '80s, but later came to the notice of World Bank watchers when he was chosen as the "eminent person" to chair the Extractive Industries Review. Salim has continued struggling with Wolfensohn to get the EIR's findings accepted. Apparently he and Wolfowitz were friends, but he is now horrified by the Iraq war.

The real gem of the article, however, has to be this episode from Wolfowitz's time in Jakarta: "He won third prize in a cooking contest sponsored by the country's leading women's magazine, Femina, appearing in its glossy pages in an apron and explaining his secret for Madame Mao's chicken."

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 06:16 PM

UK academics against Wolfowitz The Financial Times today prints a letter opposing Wolfowitz's candidacy from a large number of UK academics, including large numbers from the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, the Centre for Development Studies in Leeds, and the University of Oxford. Notables highlighted among the signatories include Sir Richard Jolly and Ha-Joon Chang.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 06:05 PM

Riza whispering campaign. The whispering campaign directed against Wolfie's partner, Shaha Ali Riza, continues.

This anonymous blog post is doing the rounds at the Bank at the moment - and we've been receiving copies all day!

According to Freerider, who mostly blogs on investment ideas, Riza was fired from her last job because she was "a complete nut case":

"was fired because she verbally attacked two of her colleagues at a Monday morning staff meeting, and she was politely told to shut up, the Monday morning staff meeting is not the place to air grievances.

"A few days later she was fired. Then, after that, she showed up at a board meeting, walked in, sat down, and proceeded to sit through the entire board meeting even though she was no longer an employee and had no reason to be there. She was sitting next to me, and I thought she must have had some reason to be there, but then afterwards when management went ballistic I realized that, yes, that was strange.

"She once chewed me out because I didn't put an invitation in her mailbox. I was about to give her a piece of my mind, like, "Listen lady, why don't you take your Oxford degree and figure out how to use your email," but I just laughed it off and chalked it up to her complete nuttiness."

We can offer no confirmation of these allegations - so handle with extreme care. As Soren noted earlier, some report a great deal of respect for Riza and her work...

Posted by David Steven at 02:37 PM

The Horse-Trading Emerges from the Shadows. Two articles in Sunday newspapers open up a little more dicussion on what the White House is offering to its allies in exchange for their support of Wolfowitz's nomination. An interview with Wolfowitz in the Washington Post seems to confirm the news first broken by Alex on this page -- that the European ministers will demand that a new #2 position at the Bank be created for them to fill. And a piece in The Guardian (U.K.) revives reports that the U.S. has promised to back Pascal Lamy for the top post at the WTO so long as France supports Wolfowitz.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 07:56 AM

World Bank confirms meeting to vote on Wolfowitz The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors issued a statement on Friday confirming reports that it will meet on March 31 to make a decision on whether Paul Wolfowitz should be World Bank president. The U.S. has never been formally challenged on its "right" to name someone to the post, but it remains a possibility.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 07:44 AM

From Inside the WB: Discontent over Riza We hear from Bank insiders that Shaha Ali Riza, whom Paul Wolfowitz has been dating for a couple of years, is not popular with her colleagues. As acting manager for External Relations and Outreach in the Middle East/North Africa region of the World Bank, she is to some degree the institution's public face on that region.

Her personnel file at the Bank reportedly contains several complaints about her job performance as well as about a certain "lack of people skills." This, we are told, is part of what is behind the World Bank Staff Association's relatively more open disagreement with the U.S.'s choice.

The WBSA raised loud complaints a few years ago when Wolfensohn named Nick Stern as Chief Economist. Several staffers pointed out the Bank's strict anti-nepotism laws should have prevented that move, since Stern's brother was on staff at the Bank. Their complaints were never addressed seriously.

It should be noted that at least one civil society organization believes that Riza is one of the most effective gender experts working at the Bank.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 07:23 AM

Left or right. Spurred on by Wolfowitz's appointment, there's a quite a ding-dong on the web about whether the right or left have the best ideas about development.

"On those few occasions when [Conservatives] think about the subject, conservatives recite a stale catechism of clichés based on virtually no research or experience," writes Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek.

Nick Schulz disagrees:

""That Zakaria stuff is an outrage. He has no idea what he’s talking about. All the interesting ideas about development in recent years have come from the political right or from non-ideological folks (Hernando de Soto, William Easterly, etc.)."

Posted by David Steven at 05:36 PM

Wolfie Jokes A growing list of jokes is doing the rounds at the World Bank...

All employees will have to wear a helmet with a a digital camera when at work.

All employees will have to attend to the salute to the US flag at 6:00 am in the hall of the MC.

The WB motto will be changed from "Our dream is a world without poverty... " to "Our dream is a world without poor people ... We will move all of them to Guantanamo"

The conditionality guidelines will be streamlined to only 1 article:"You do what we tell you otherwise we invade you."

All WB public works contracts to be attributed to Halliburton after transparent and fair bidding process.

The cafeteria will carry only Meals Ready to eat.

Initial orientation of new recruits will be in Bagram Base in Afghanistan

The Health room will be abolished. Staff will use the Veterans Hospitals

Any response to an order from a superior will be "Sir, Yes Sir".

Rough hazing of female recruits will be introduced

Planning for project implementation after loan signature will be abolished. "If post victory planning was not needed in Iraq why would it be elsewhere.."

Senior Management will travel to and from work by helicopter

Only Senior Management will be issued flak vests

Ordinary staff will be issues shirts with a target pattern printed on the back

Shuttle bus services to the Pentagon will be offered on the hour every hour

Shuttle bus services to the CIA will be maintained

Staff on mission will only be allowed to travel on Boeing aircraft.

Upon return from mission staff will not be allowed to claim for reimbursement of entertainment expenses unless such expenses were incurred at an approved US franchised fast food restaurant.

Posted by David Steven at 12:53 PM

Shaha Riza sets tongues wagging. We're still getting lots of mail from inside the World Bank about Shaha Riza. Apparently this article from a British tabloid is doing the rounds on the internal email, while the Arab News describes her as "one of the most influential Muslims in Washington".

Riza's neighbours are gossiping too: It's an international neighborhood and he's the icon for a fabulously expensive, tragic war. It's the one thing we talk about now."

Posted by David Steven at 12:47 PM

Blair Knew of Plan to Nominate Wolfowitz. The Financial Times reports that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was informed in February that President Bush wanted to nominate Paul Wolfowitz for the World Bank presidency. "The Poodle" earned his nickname again by agreeing to go along with the idea, and by keeping it a secret from other European officials, including his own finance minister (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Gordon Brown.

"Mr Blair's discreet support gave President George W. Bush the confidence to know that Mr Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary and an advocate of the war in Iraq, would not face united opposition from the World Bank's European shareholders," reports the FT.

It goes on: "The UK Treasury, the British foreign office and officials in other European capitals remained in the dark, according to UK officials. Following a report in the Financial Times on March 1 that Mr Wolfowitz was a leading candidate for the US nomination, a senior UK Treasury official telephoned his US counterpart. The US Treasury dismissed the story, according to British officials. A British diplomat, who contacted the administration, was told Mr Wolfowitz was not in the running."

While the article does not claim that no other Europeans were told in advance, it does note that Schroeder (Germany) and Chirac (France) first heard about the nomination when Bush announced it.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 05:31 AM

Graveyard humor in the Bank. An anonymous donor from the World Bank has compiled some of the wittier observations on the fate that awaits the staff under a Paul Wolfowitz presidency. See for yourself ...

Rumours have that the new WB President, after being appointed, will announce important changes at the WB:

* All employees will have to wear a helmet with a a digital camera when at work.
* All employees will have to attend to the salute to the US flag at 6:00 am in the hall of the MC.
* The WB motto will be changed from "Our dream is a world without poverty... " to "Our dream is a world without poor people ... We will move all of them to Guantanamo"
* The conditionality guidelines will be streamlined to only 1 article:"You do what we tell you otherwise we invade you."
* All WB public works contracts to be attributed to Halliburton after transparent and fair bidding process.
* The cafeteria will carry only Meals Ready to eat.
* Initial orientation of new recruits will be in Bagram Base in Afghanistan
* The Health room will be abolished. Staff will use the Veterans Hospitals
* Any response to an order from a superior will be "Sir, Yes
* Rough hazing of female recruits will be introduced
* Planning for project implementation after loan signature will be abolished. "If post victory planning was not needed in Iraq why would it be elsewhere.."
* Senior Management will travel to and from work by helicopter
* Only Senior Management will be issued flak vests
* Ordinary staff will be issues shirts with a target pattern printed on the back
* Shuttle bus services to the Pentagon will be offered on the hour every hour
* Shuttle bus services to the CIA will be maintained
* Staff on mission will only be allowed to travel on Boeing aircraft.
* Upon return from mission staff will not be allowed to claim for reimbursement for entertainment expenses unless such expenses were incurred at an approved US franchised fast food restaurant.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 11:16 PM

Get the full scoop on Wolfowitz. The Institute for Policy Studies' Jim Vallette has done some quick but substantial research into how the man ticks. Take a look at "Wolfowitz in His Own Words" and the Wolfowitz Chronicles, (or, if you're in a hurry, the condensed version) -- an examination of the presumptive World Bank President’s works on oil, national security, development, corruption, human rights, and debt.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 11:07 PM

U.S. organizations vs. Wolfowitz U.S. civil society organizations have launched a sign-on letter urging President Bush to withdraw his nomination of Paul Wolfowitz. They're not expecting him to do it, mind you, but do want to make their voices heard.

The deadline is quick: Monday, March 28 at 2pm Eastern (North America) time; send your name, organization, and location to signon@nowaywolfowitz.org.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 10:55 PM

Petition closes with 1650 signatures. Eurodad has put out a final version of the petition against Wolfowitz. Now with over 1650 signatories (Excel). Sorry it took a while to post all of your names and organisations (thanks for reminders).

We had sore wrists from cutting and pasting, and lots of other things to do. Especial thanks to Alessandra (Fontana), Olivia (Debouver) and Lucy (Hayes), who bore the brunt of the work.

We have now, a week later than planned, closed the petition. We suggest that people continue to take action, but by writing directly to their head of state or other relevant ministers. Or you can use Pesticides Action Network North America's on-line activism facility to trigger a message to World Bank Executive Directors before their meeting next Thursday.

And don't forget to bother your legislators about this - they are the best-placed to put pressure on ministers to say when they knew about the Wolfowitz appointment and what position they are taking.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:00 PM

Bank staff association media splash. Days after we carried the story and full text of the Staff Association announcement the World Bank has told the press about its system for its staff to comment on the Wolfowitz appointment. I detect a defensive tone.

"It's an internal website that's designed to be confidential," World Bank spokesman Damian Milverton said. A staff member told Agence France Presse: "it's a way of channelling opinions, rather than having them circulate all over the world." Could this be a subtle reference to worldbankpresident.org, I wonder.

As the Staff Association was told by the US government in early February it had no role, why would staff prioritise sending their comments into the black hole that is the internal Staff Association website when they can send us an e-mail, or post directly and publicly to our web forum? Many have done just that, and we thank you.

One Bank staffmember told us indeed a few weeks ago that this blog was the best effort so far to open up the murky Bank selection process. Thanks again to all those Bank insiders and others who've provided encouragement and communications.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:45 PM

Acceptance likely but regrettable. Voice of America carries a story reviewing the controversy caused by Wolfowitz's selection. It quotes author Sebastian Mallaby, who has come round to supporting Wolfowitz in the last couple of weeks, saying: "what you are going to see is that the cause of anti-globalization will be reunited with the cause of Iraq war protests and it will all be focused on the World Bank and Paul Wolfowitz."

The piece also cites Jeff Powell at Bretton Woods Project and Manish Bapna at Bank Information Center, among other commentators (my interview seems to have hit the cutting room floor, but I can take it).

They set out the horse-trading tactics of European governments and argue forcefully that Wolfowitz's experience does not match the job.

North-Western University academic Jeffrey Winters sums it all up when he says: "the World Bank was designed as a long-term development instrument and it has actually been abused over the years by the United States and by the European powers as an instrument of foreign policy. One can only expect that Mr. Wolfowitz is only going to deepen that role."

Meanwhile, though not carried on Voice of America, I've found two politically diverse further American voices strongly agreeing to disagree with Bush's World Bank pick.

Bruce Bartlett in Human Events On-line, 'The National Conservative Weekly':
"This is a disappointing decision for those who care about international economic development. At best, it shows a casual disregard for the Bank. At worst, it represents a politicization of the institution that could seriously hamper its work".

Bill Day, writing in the Talahassee Democrat: "He's certainly no economist. He vastly underestimated the costs of the Iraq war and vastly overestimated Iraqi oil production afterwards".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:20 PM

"A war on the poor". In appointing Wolfowitz to the World Bank, "the US is turning the war on terror into a war on the poor". This is the view of a Palestine-based law professor writing in Al-Ahram weekly.

The article recounts Wolfowitz's anger when current Bank president Wolfensohn pulled World Bank staff out of Iraq for safety reasons. While not positive about what Wolfensohn managed to achieve, it says "Wolfensohn can at least reflect on the fact that he did not allow the Bank to lead an intensification of grand injustice".

Wolfowitz is much more dangerous, author Curtis Doebbler argues: "if his contribution to the deaths of millions of Iraqis and East Timorese is harrowing, it is worth noting that at the World Bank he could do much greater harm".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:38 PM

Brazil not convinced, but accepting. A report on Wednesday's meeting of Wolfowitz and many developing country Executive Directors in Brazilian paper is revealing. The World Bank presidential nominee was, in a nutshell, smooth and slippery. Brazilian government sources are quoted by Valor Economico (subs) as saying that Wolfowitz was well informed but on tough issues, when not able to give pleasing answers, knew how to dodge diplomatically.

Reuters earlier carried a story accusing Wolfowitz of sticking "to a careful script, talking about his passion for development and deep interest in easing poverty".

That Brazil seems to have given up any thought of opposing Wolfowitz saddens activists in Brazil and beyond who appreciated Brazil's role in standing up to the US and Europe at the Cancun trade conference eighteen months ago. E-mails have been flying with titles such as "Lula aligns with hawk".

The Valor Economico article notes that some, but not all Brazilian officials don't feel that Wolfowitz will be able to drag the Bank in entirely new directions. But it says Brazil's lack of opposition to Wolfowitz is partly because the government does not want to do anything that might reduce the flow of World Bank loans to the country.

This concern has certainly had a dampening effect on many developing country representatives.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:31 PM

Alex sums it up. Our very own Alex Wilks has published a comprehensive and very useful summary of the process and politics of selecting a World Bank President in the 21st century at opendemocracy.net. Includes analysis of the Wolfowitz nomination.

Some might quibble that Alex, in contrasting the likely character of a Wolfowitz Bank with the Wolfensohn Bank, veers too close to suggesting that today's Bank has recovered from its old Cold War habits of allowing itself to be used for geostrategic purposes -- i.e., supporting the U.S.'s strategic allies. It's true that a Mobutu probably wouldn't get loans from the Bank now -- indeed he was cut off before the end in the mid-90s. But we should also recall how quickly the Bank orchestrated extraordinary debt relief for Pakistan and Tajikistan after they pledged their loyalty to the U.S. in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 06:17 AM

Wolfowitz heading to Luxembourg. Reuters reports that Paul Wolfowitz will head to Luxembourg on Wednesday, March 30 to meet with "European economy and aid ministers." That is the day before the anticipated vote on his nomination by the World Bank's executive board.

Until now he seemed to be resisting the invitation, and his office is not commenting just yet. The game may not be over after all.

Posted by Soren Ambrose at 05:39 AM

Bush's "shake-up-the-world view" The Washington Times has a piece (scroll) arguing that the White House had tapped Paul Wolfowitz for the Bank president job some time ago. It cites Fred Barnes, writing in the Wall Street Journal, saying that "the president knew exactly whom he wanted from the start".

A linked article (scroll) in the same paper reports that James P. Rubin, who was assistant secretary of state under President Clinton and an adviser to the Kerry campaign, thinks Wolfowitz is the right choice for the Bank. The reason? Because Wolfowitz can become a champion on capitol hill for more aid.

We hear this argument has also been raised by the Wolfowitz camp with European governments. But two cautions. 1) Wolfowitz can always blame Congress's painstaking annual appropriations if more aid does not materialise, and 2) we need better and less politicised aid, not just more aid and the current US administration is not a good champion for that.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:43 PM

NGO tactics questioned. Combative South African author and activist Patrick Bond (bio - PDF) takes on Wolfowitz and Wolfowitz's critics in an impassioned article for Counterpunch.

Patrick cites South African activist poet Dennis Brutus, saying "it is crucial for us to up the ante against the system we might term global apartheid. The World Bank is at the nerve center of that system, and will now become a 'War Bank'".

Brutus has long warned against the "divide-and-conquer tactics of outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn ('Wolfy 1'), who was perfectly willing to fund Bush's illegitimate neocolonial rule in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti". Patrick Bond says "the man now labeled 'Wolfy2' has none of his predecessor's talents in softening up NGOs in meaningless 'multistakeholder forums' on issues ranging from dams to mining/petroleum to structural adjustment". Wolfowitz will "add more explicit White House geopolitics to the Bank's noxious recipe".

Patrick condemns the tactics of parliamentarians such as MEP Louisa Morgantini and the hundreds of civil society groups who signed the Eurodad petition. Patrick is surprised that many "otherwise reasonable friends of his" signed it.

His complaint? "It's the job of robust NGOs to speak truth to power, and to not fear describing the Bank - under Wolfy1 or Wolfy2 - as a tool of imperialism".

I think Patrick, an old friend, may be splitting hairs. Our statement talked about aligning the Bank to "US foreign policy". A statement's strength and impact cannot be measured by the number of "-isms" alone.

Anyway I am in agreement with Patrick's conclusion, citing Raj Patel and Sebastian Mallaby, that the Wolfowitz appointment represents a mobilising and awareness-raising opportunity. Patel said on his blog, it's now "much easier to see how war and the Bank are linked if the man who's good at one can move to the other without skipping a beat. This helps movement-building, and makes it harder for the media to ignore the links".

One issue touched on by Raj, which will certainly come up soon, is how NGOs should and will respond when they are invited to a meeting by Wolfowitz. Raj's view is that "any NGO that tried to get too close would be much more widely seen for the parasites they are". There certainly will be big reputational risk for NGOs seen dining with the Wolf, and a severe danger of legitimising him rather than persuading him.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 10:07 AM

Bank's poodle? One website describes us as "a dog-and-pony show intended to demonstrate the warmth and reasonableness of the World Bank and its staff"...

The author has clearly been paying close attention!

Posted by David Steven at 08:19 AM

Wolfowitz's to do list. Someone called Saifedean Ammous has been in touch with an interesting message. They "managed to hack into Paul Wolfowitz’s laptop" and found his To-Do List for the Bank. It includes: "Third World governments that can’t pay back their debts to have their Finance Ministers sent to the Repayment Department headquarters in Abu Ghraib".

Worldbankpresident.org is pleased to provide you the Wolfowitz list, as supplied by Ammous.

World Bank To-Do List

1. Launch preemptive war on poverty; kill all the poor

2. Since the war on Iraq made the whole world a safer place, all countries of the world will have to pay the US back its costs, with interest

3. The World Bank to be renamed ‘American Enterprise Institute-Executive Branch’

4. No more ‘Structural Adjustment Programs.’ Replace with ‘Regime Change Programs’

5. Third World governments that can’t pay back their debts to have their Finance Ministers sent to the Repayment Department headquarters in Abu Ghraib

6. Developing countries not to get loans or grants, only private accounts that they can invest in the New York Stock Exchange

7. The World Bank to divest itself from any organization that carries out or supports abortion or contraception

8. Launch preemptive war on AIDS, kill all patients

9. World Bank to exclude all Muslim states from membership

10. “You’re either with us, or you’re with the Central Planners”

11. All countries of the world to have complete accountability and transparency, so that all blame can be pinned on them and the World Bank isn’t accountable to anything.

12. David Duke to be placed in charge of African Affairs

13. Bill O’Reilly to be appointed Chief Economist of the World Bank

14. Pat Robertson to be placed in charge of Islamic Affairs

15. World bank to ditch lending and go into borrowing; generating a $600billion deficit

16. International enforcement of Bush’s tax cuts, all the rich of the world should never pay taxes

17. All loans to developing countries conditional on all their citizens watching two hours of FOX news every day

18. Complete regions of the world to be privatized, only Halliburton can

19. All oceans to be privatized, only Halliburton can bid

20. Forget Kyoto, the atmosphere to be privatized, only Halliburton can

Other suggestions of what Wolfowitz might do at the Bank? Post them on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:49 AM

Post confirms European no. 2 bid. The Washington Post has followed our story of yesterday with a piece indicating that Paul Wolfowitz has agreed that European governments can have a senior deputy position at the top of the World Bank. No names are mentioned.

Developing country officials are quoted, meanwhile, saying that they are not going to put up a candidate for World Bank president.

One reason, an unnamed official told the Post, is that the developing countries are aware of the European desire to get the deputy's job, and a Third World challenge to Wolfowitz would only give the Europeans extra leverage.

The G-11 grouping of directors representing developing countries met Wolfowitz yesterday. While they are not going to challenge Wolfowitz they issued a very guarded statement after their meeting, indicating that they "are briefing their governments and consulting with them on this nomination."

Wolfowitz also met European board members yesterday. No details have yet emerged, except for the fact that Wolfowitz was "humble and charming".

The process's politicisation and opacity means that even this high-flown policy analysis had to be provided to the Post on an off the record basis.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:57 AM

A reward for failure. Long-standing White House columnist Helen Thomas considers Wolfowitz's promotion to World Bank president a means for Bush to "manipulat public opinion away from any negative thoughts that the Bush administration messed up by invading Iraq".

She recites a litany of misleading statements by Wolfowitz before and during the Iraq war. And predicts: "we won't be getting any apologies or confessions of mistakes about Iraq from Wolfowitz down the road".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:33 AM

Jesse Jackson writes. A comment piece from civil rights activist and former US presidential candidate Jesse Jackson asks if fighting world poverty is "a ping-pong game between the U.S. and Europe, a game in which the poorer nations are not even allowed to enter". He argues passionately that "we must challenge the process, right now, by acting as if the Southern nations matter".

The Jesse Jackson piece in full ...

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
March 23, 2005

The Bush Administration in general, and Paul Wolfowitz in particular, would have you believe that 1,500 Americans have died, perhaps 100,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, and more than $200 billion has been spent on invading and occupying Iraq, in the name of “democracy.”

Funny then that Paul Wolfowitz is now being promoted in a secret, opaque, closely-held process that freezes out most of the world. Of special note, the selection of the new World Bank head freezes out the 1 billion people who live on less than $1 per day, and the 3 billion who live on less than $2 per day. It freezes out the entire Southern hemisphere­Africa, Asia, South America. In fact, it freezes out everyone who is not a Bush loyalist in the U.S., or a nervous European elite.

It is as if fighting world poverty were a ping-pong game between the U.S. and Europe, a game in which the poorer nations are not even allowed to enter.

But why? Why should the world’s poorest people be excluded from the process of selecting one of the most important leaders who will affect their lives? Why are the nations most controlled by World Bank and International Monetary Fund policies not allowed to nominate, or even participate in any meaningful way, in the selection of new leadership?

Is Nelson Mandela less qualified to run the World Bank than Paul Wolfowitz? Or how about one of the Brazilians behind the Lula government’s innovative proposal to eliminate hunger by taxing international arms sales?

Or, since we know that the most direct route to fighting world poverty is to empower and educate poor women, why not a woman from the South to lead the World Bank, say, Arundhati Roy of India, or Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai of Kenya, a woman who actually knows something about helping poor people with sustainable development?

These names are not even considered. Only Americans, and even then, only hard-core Bush loyalists, are in the loop. In an entirely secret process, despite his lack of development credentials, and despite the widespread rejection of the idea when the Wolfowitz name was first floated publicly, George W. Bush followed up on his divisive choice of John Bolton for the U.N. with the promotion of leading war hawk Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.

Forget all that talk about reconciliation with Europe and the rest of the world. Bush’s picks were like a thumb in each of the world’s wide-open eyes.

Since Bush makes up his own rules as he goes along, so should we. After all, when George W. Bush meets with Tony Blair, that’s a minority meeting­the U.S. & the U.K. together are only one-sixteenth of the world!

It’s time for a new set of international rules. The IMF is not just the property of Europe; and the World Bank can no longer be just a tool of U.S. foreign policy.

“One-dollar, one-vote” is no recipe for democracy.

The South deserves a voice, and a candidate. The South should nominate one of their own this week, even if just to break the stranglehold the U.S. & European elites have on the process, just to crack the ice a bit.

That nominee should have a program, a “4-D” platform:

• Democracy program, to open up the WB/IMF systems to the whole world;
• Development program, to move from big energy projects to micro-, women-centered projects, with an emphasis on renewable technologies;
• Disease-fighting program, to battle AIDs and malaria, and the other dread diseases which ravage the Southern hemisphere; and,
• Debt cancellation program, to completely eliminate the debts of Africa and Latin America, to bring the “Jubilee” described in the Bible to the world’s poorest people. 100% debt cancellation, with no conditions, no tricks, no limitations, no restrictions­the single most useful step we could take to fight world poverty.

We must challenge the process, right now, by acting as if the Southern nations matter. Nominate a Southerner. Practice democracy. Cancel the debt. Wipe the slate clean, and let’s start over.

3 billion poor people are waiting.

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., is the Founder & President of the National Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and a former candidate for President in 1984 & 1988.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:08 PM

Scoop: Europeans demand number 2 position. I was informed this evening that European governments are trying to negotiate to get a European named as a senior Managing Director at the Bank. A reliable government source who has just attended the European Council discussions here in Brussels said that Europeans are demanding a senior representative "as part of Wolfowitz's team" if the latter is made World Bank president.

My view is that such a move would represent a further kick in the teeth to developing countries, who have been told repeatedly they would be getting more representation in the international financial institutions. The credibility of these supposedly multilateral bodies would suffer yet further if their top four positions become allocated on a political basis by the US and European governments. (The number two position at the Fund, currently occupied by Anne Krueger, is a US appointment).

The Europeans were claiming to occupy a slight bump of moral high ground on the basis that multiple candidates were belatedly allowed to challenge for the IMF Managing Director position last year. This argument was already failing to convince many. Adopting an "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude to the World Bank, by pushing one of their number forward to a souped up number two position there, would extend the jobs stitch-up and move us further away from a meritocratic selection procedure.

Chinese national Shengman Zhang is currently the senior managing director at the Bank, although he does not have the Deputy President status that would apparently be sought for a European. His future would be uncertain if the Europeans have their way.

I of course asked my source which Europeans might be thrust forward for this role. I got no reply. One possibility is that the Europeans might look to one of their number who has just been put forward for the UNDP top job. These are: Hilde F. Johnson (Norway), minister for international development; Ad Melkert (Netherlands), current World Bank Executive Director and former minister of social affairs; and Baroness Valerie Amos (Britain), leader of the House of Lords and former secretary of state for international development.

Whether one of the above would be prepared to extract themselves from the UNDP race is not clear. But they know they cannot all get it. And we also know, because Kofi Annan has fulfilled his promise of a transparent shortlist of more than one person for the UNDP leadership.

Some of the Europeans listed above are interesting and progressive individuals. But would they really believe that filling a number two slot will rebalance the Bank? The argument that wise Europeans will fill the space in order to do the right thing for developing countries is a bit like the argument men used to use to justify not giving women the vote.

What do you think of this European proposal? Have your say on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:49 PM

Appeal by European economists. A list of leading European economists have signed a statement against the Wolfowitz nomination as World Bank president. It says "at the very least, Mr. Wolfowitz is a highly controversial choice. He has not been supportive of the multilateral institutions and has not demonstrated in the past his support of the development community" and calls for the process to be opened up.

The La Voce site also contains (in English and Italian) a strong piece by Alberto Alesina and Roberto Perotti condemning European posturing and hypocrisy about this issue and multilateralism in general.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:15 PM

Free the World Bank. It is not likely to appear on as many placards and T-shirts as "Free Nelson Mandela" did. But an FT piece today argues that the US needs to liberate the World Bank. An opinion piece by Jeffrey Sachs complains of "backroom politics" surrounding the World Bank, which claims to be a leading force in the democratisation of developing countries.

The article complains that the US is in no position to exercise moral or political leadership on the World Bank largely because it is a stingy aid donor. The Sachs piece is not nearly as hard-hitting as some of his other recent comments on the Wolfowitz nomination however.

He concludes with suggested questions for the presidential candidate, including:

1) "would the candidate champion the call of free-market ideologues to privatise public health, educationand infrastructure, or would he or she agree that increased public finance is vital to ensuring universal access to health, nutrition, water and sanitation, schoolingand family planning?"

2) "does the candidate support a bigger voice and vote for developing countries in the World Bank and International Monetary Fund?"

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:38 PM

Very grudging acceptance. Wolfowitz has received semi-endorsements, through gritted teeth, from further European leaders. Few seem prepared to actively support him. Irish Finance Minister Brian Cowen told a Brussels press conference earlier: "the realpolitik of the situation is that in all likelihood Mr Wolfowitz will be appointed as chairman of the bank".

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder also told a news conference "I told him that I believed Europe's enthusiasm would be limited but that the appointment would not fail because of Germany".

Italian economy minister Domenico Sinicalco and Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld did find something positive to say. According to Sinicalco Wolfowitz: "is well-read, competent and likeable".

A spokesperson for the cabinet of European Development Commissioner Louis Michel meanwhile confirmed to me that there are no active plans for Mr Wolfowitz to travel to Brussels to meet Mr Michel. Indeed the latter will be in the on a regional work visit to the Caribbean for the next ten days so would not even be available.

I have so far had no response to my request for clarification from the Luxembourg government, in its capacity as European Commission President, on where and when a joint meeting with European member states might occur. I think it will be in Washington, perhaps next week.

Political blog Not-a-pundit also features a Dow Jones story this issue.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:53 PM

Wolfowitz "to sleep with all Bank staff". "Paul Wolfowitz has agreed to take extraordinary measures to quell criticism of his nomination as World Bank president, in particular claims of conflict of interest due to his romantic involvement with a World Bank employee," reports satirical site Iconoclast.

"Wolfowitz has been involved for some time with Shaha Ali Riza, who works in the World Bank's Middle East offices, and staff are concerned the relationship will make it impossible for him to treat all employees fairly and equally.

"However, this morning Wolfowitz held a press conference where he announced his plans to 'sleep with all World Bank staff once my nomination has been approved.' The current Deputy Secretary of Defense said he will sleep with all 10,000 World Bank employees, 'in alphabetical order,' in order that any accusations of favoritism towards his girlfriend be quieted.

"Asked by New York Times columnist Maureen Down how long it would take him to have sex with the 10,000 bank staffers, and whether he had the stamina, Wolfowitz took umbrage.

'I'm 61, not 81. And anyway, I didn't say it would be quality sex. I can do about three of them a day, in between my other duties, maybe four or five per day on weekends. If people are interested in threesomes, that may expedite things. You do the math.' "

Posted by David Steven at 10:00 AM

A thrilling choice. "Now President George W. Bush wants the head of the World Neocon Conspiracy to lead the ultimate philanthropist's bank," writes Amity Shlaes. "What is he trying to do, destroy these institutions?"

Her answer? An unqualified no. In fact, multilateralists should be thrilled by the choice...

Posted by David Steven at 08:50 AM

Europeans remain cool. Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders is pushing for the 25 European member states to come to a common position on the Wolfowitz nomination. The story issued yesterday by Xinhuanet contrasts the cautious European response to Wolfowitz to the enthusiasm shown by Japan and Australia.

It talks of "many reservations being aired in the corridors", and cites Stefaan Declercq General Secretary of Oxfam Solidarité demanding that the Bank selection process "must change".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:26 AM

"A clear-headed military man". Strangely Russia's Garegin Tosunian, the president of the Association of Russian Banks, thinks it is "better to appoint a clear-headed military man than a bank-office operationalist".

Why not turn the Bank's atrium into a parade ground, to hold 6AM drills? And get those buttons polished in the G-building.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:04 AM

Letter condemns European tactics. A letter to the Financial Times says the Europeans are playing the Wolfowitz nomination all wrong. It argues "If the Europeans are not pleased, they should come out with a clear and frank No to Paul Wolfowitz, instead of delicate expressions of 'uneasiness' and genteel surprise at 'not being consulted'.

Letter-writer Prof Debarati Guha-Sapir continues "Politenesses will cut absolutely no ice in acquiring US support, either for getting Germany into the Security Council or for getting the French candidate to head the WTO. Well, maybe the latter, since the WTO has nothing like the potential the World Bank has to dispense favours".

So much for the European governments. What about the Commission? Guha-Sapir argues: "Inviting Mr Wolfowitz to the European Commission to hear his agenda also sends the wrong signals. Frankly, what does the Commission imagine Mr Wolfowitz's agenda to be, given his record?"

I also think Commissioner Louis Michel's office was very clumsy in issuing its midlly-worded invitation last week in the midst of the nomination debate.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:59 AM

Japanese scolding. An editorial in a leading Japanese newspaper has a clear message: "Don't use post as a tool to pursue U.S. global strategy". It scolds Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for giving his support to Bush's nomination immediately rather than in return for US backing for further reforms of the institution.

The editorial in Asahi Shimbun says: "as economic globalization advances, there is growing criticism that the U.S. government and the World Bank are working together to impose the American model of a free-market economy on uncompetitive developing countries. If the next World Bank chief creates the impression among developing countries that it is more interested in spreading American-model of democracy than in helping their economic development, the credibility of the organization that has been built up over decades will collapse overnight".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:53 AM

Latest European views. A wire story from Reuters in Belgium quotes various European ministers still not convinced about Wolfowitz for the World Bank president job. And Luxembourg Economics Minister Jeannot Krecke revealed that European governments have produced a paper listing "concern about the way Mr Wolfowitz intends to handle the policy of the World Bank".

Swedish Finance Minister Par Nuder made what is perhaps the best diplomatic comment on the nomination so far: "I would like to say that if you can't get the one you love, you have to love the one you can get".

The Austrian Finance Minister also sounded a note of caution.

Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm said: "Some countries already know what they are going to do, and some countries will wait until these talks have taken place". But he finished: "I did not see any very negative attitudes so I think he is taken as a very serious candidate".

No "very negative" attitudes is by no means a compliment coming from a minister ... but it seems increasingly clear that they have not got the bottle to challenge the US on this matter.

The BBC also confirms the negative views that remain in Europe, citing the German finance minister among others and mentioning Wolfowitz's much-trailed trip to Brussels to answer questions on debt relief and other issues.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:46 AM

Bad news for world peace. Writing in Arab News Fawaz Turki comments that "Wolfowitz has a serious credibility problem, and sensitivities abroad are inflamed about the choice". Not good news at all, he continues, for world peace, multilateralism and international understanding

By choosing "those two nutcases to speak for the United States at the World Bank and the United Nations, President Bush is not reaching out to the international community but insuring instead that his 'policy wars' will indeed go on.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:34 AM

Disruptive conservatives. "With the Wolfowitz and even the John Bolton nomination to the United Nations, the Bush administration retains its capacity to startle," writes Christopher Hitchens in Slate, "mainly because it has redefined the lazy term 'conservative' to mean someone who is impatient with the status quo."

Hitchens finds the position of Paul Wolfowitz in this contest is rather harder to read than many people suppose. "He has long had a close relationship with centrist democrats in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He prizes his Asian contacts and the relationship with moderate Islam that they symbolize."

However, Hitchens concludes: "For all this, I don't take it for granted that the nomination for leadership of the World Bank is in the gift of the president of the United States".

Posted by David Steven at 06:24 PM

Wolfie accountability. I continue to find it interesting that military officers remain held to higher standards of conduct while civilian leadership is not," writes Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Kolbas (ret.) to the Navy Times, citing the case of a submarine commander recently relieved of his command.

"If [the same standards] are applied to the planning and preparation of the war in Iraq as directed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, then they, too, should be relieved of command for hazarding their vessel — the Defense Department."

Posted by David Steven at 06:20 PM

Bye bye Taylor. Erstwhile favourite for World Bank President, John Taylor, is out of a job.

Must be galling to beaver away for so long promoting the US line on international development, only to see an even more controversial figure nip in and snatch the big job at the Bank!

Posted by David Steven at 04:57 PM

It's a cakewalk. With Italy now on board, "educated, competent and remarkable" Wolfowitz appears to be making rapid strides towards the Bank presidency...

Posted by David Steven at 04:42 PM

"Moment of truth" for Europeans. CONCORD, with Eurodad, has issued a press release on the World Bank president issue ahead of the European summit meeting taking place today. It says "this is a moment of truth for European governments and we demand that they do not roll over and accept this provocative US nomination".

European governments' responses on the Bank president issue are due to be discussed at the leaders' working dinner this evening.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 03:44 PM

The imperial Wolf bares its fangs. A statement from Jubilee South "underlines the historical fact that the World Bank continues to be an instrument of the global power structure, and that at the head of that power structure lies the United States Government". It concludes that "the nexus between economic and military imperialism stands exposed".

Under the header "The Imperial Wolf Shows Its Teeth" the Southern NGO network says: "other members of the G8 along with the so-called “donors” might pretend to be scandalized at the selection, but the real scandal are the policies and practices of the World Bank/ Washington Consensus of which they too form a part".

It continues: "The nomination of Wolfowitz is reprehensible, a man of the Pentagon who is stained with blood and oil, continuing the tradition which ceded to the US the 'right' to name the World Bank’s president". But Jubilee South goes further than some other civil society statements in commenting "what really matters is the policy that is carried out independently of personalities - an ever-faithful institution belonging to a power structure that daily claims the lives of 250,000 persons victims of structural adjustment policies and imperial mind-sets and interests that are dead set against the radical redistribution of economic and social power required on a systemic level".

Jubilee South believes that the external debt of the South is illegitimate, that it is an ideological construct that oppresses peoples. It calls on all those concerned to "direct their campaign efforts not simply at reversing that decision, but at decommissioning the World Bank itself".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 03:05 PM

Reuters misleads on Canada. Reuters has put round a story that Wolfowitz has "won endorsements from Germany and Canada". The Canadian statement Reuters quoted at greater length, however, says nothing of the sort. It is a guarded comment that "Canada welcomes the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz for the post of president of the World Bank. Mr. Wolfowitz is a very serious and credible candidate. Until such time as nominations are put forward we are unable to comment further".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:18 AM

Further Bank staff rumblings. Former and present Bank staff continue to raise a fuss. Former Bank head of personnel Dr A. P. Williams questions: "should the governments of the world tamely acquiesce in the desire of the Bush administration to hand the presidency of the world's leading development institution as a consolation prize to someone who: would really have preferred to be secretary of defence"?

He continues, in a letter to the FT: "there is a high probability that Mr Wolfowitz, being intelligent and energetic but seriously wrong-headed, would do a great deal, not just to one hapless country but to many others besides".

Many current Bank staff feel likewise. One wrote today to say "I have yet to talk to anyone who has not reacted with shock and disappointment".

As we mentioned previously staff have the opportunity to feed their comments via the Bank's Staff Association, the head of which distributed the following e-mail yesterday.

Staff Association

03/22/2005 01:27

Subject: Presidential nomination: send the Staff Assocation your comments

Dear Colleagues,

Further to the March 17 Staff Association's message, we have met with Mr.
Wolfensohn and have spoken to the Dean of the Board. Both have indicated concern for staff opinions and welcomed the Staff Association's initiative to gather staff views and present them for consideration to the Board during the confirmation process. The Board recognizes that staff are central to the effectiveness of the Bank's mission to reduce poverty.

The Staff Association has launched a confidential feedback channel for staff to comment on the nomination of Dr. Paul Wolfowitz as the new President of the World Bank. Comments can be posted via the following link: http://sa/feedback/ or through the Staff Association's website. In the next 24 hours, (c.o.b. Tuesday, March 22nd), we will sort and summarize the responses, which will be delivered to the Executive Directors. We will also provide the Executive Directors with hard copies of the comments with ALL identifying information carefully removed.

The Staff Association will faithfully communicate to the Board the full range of staff views and concerns, without "spin." We feel this is the most effective way to ensure that staff views are taken into account.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Alison Cave
World Bank Group Staff Association

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:08 AM

Democracy and corruption credentials slammed. "Of all former U.S. ambassadors, he was considered closest to and most influential with Suharto and his family," said Abdul Hakim Garuda Nusantara, head of the state-sponsored National Human Rights Commission in Indonesia has told Associated Press.

When Wolfowitz was Reagan's Ambassador in Indonesia in the late 1980s "he never showed interest in issues regarding democratization or respect of human rights," said Hakim. Hakim was then director of the Legal Aid Institute that defended dissidents and sought to free political prisoners, but said: "Wolfowitz never once visited our offices."

This will be an embarassment to Wolfowitz who is presenting himself as a constant and great defender of democracy. Anti-corruption work is another source of pride for Mr W. But Hakim reveals: "I also never heard him publicly mention corruption, not once".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:02 AM

"Not smart": Indonesia Post An opinion piece in the Jakarta Post comments that, with Wolfowitz at the helm, "the perception that the World Bank is merely a vehicle for furthering U.S. interests will become stronger".

Writer Ari A. Perdana continues continues: "many fear that if he becomes the World Bank president, the Bank's policies will be directed by the U.S. government's interests. Developing countries worry that whatever lending or development assistance they receive will be tied to non-development issues such as international security".

The article continues: "The Bank has been trying hard to maintain its image, which has been deteriorating since the rise of the anti-globalization movement in the late '90s. The Bank has also issued revisions to its development approaches in the past half-century. But if Wolfowitz becomes the Bank's president, it would be hard to avoid the perception that the World Bank will become, in Paul Krugman's words, 'an ugly American Bank'".

"From the Indonesian perspective, we may be better off having Wolfowitz in the inner circle of the Bush administration as our relationship with the U.S government is more uncertain than that with the World Bank", the piece argues.

Perdana respects Wolfowitz "as a person", but that "running an organization like the Bank is different from running the Pentagon", and that the baggage Wolfowitz brings will weigh down the Bank significantly.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:57 AM

Bank staffer begs to differ. We have received a retort to the post earlier that "it could have been much worse". A colleague of theirs responds: "I have never been a person who subscribes to the logic of the lesser of two evils. I find it personally to be the moral argument of the weak and cowardly".

Our correspondent continues: "so the argument put forward by the person who described him/her self as "a senior member of the Bank's management team" does not fly with me".

"The question I have for this person and others who may adapt that line of reasoning is: Do you believe that the already shaky reputation of the bank can survive, at least for the short term , having Paul Wolfowitz , considering his godfather-like image in Europe and the developing world, as your lead spokesman?. I doubt it very much".

"They will have to pay me a whole lot of money to work in your PR department".

As on so many other issues, Mr Wolfowitz has not yet declared what he would do with the Bank's External Relations Department, nor payscales.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:29 PM

Schroeder backs Wolfie. Confirmation that German Chancellor, Gerard Schroeder, has lined up behind Paul Wolfowitz, promising Bush he will support the controversial nomination. "People could be pleasantly surprised by his performance as the future World Bank head," he told German TV.

Despite Schroeder's none too positive description of the decision-making process "The US president phoned me up to say what he intended and I told him Germany would not stand in his way" it looks like Wolfowitz's approval may be a done deal ...

Posted by David Steven at 04:44 PM

MPs consider Wolfo "uniquely unsuitable". In the UK, where the government has been facing difficulty getting some legislation through parliament, a strongly worded Early Day Motion has been tabled by David Drew (Labour) and Andrew George (Liberal Democrat).

It states: "this House is appalled that the US Administration has chosen to nominate Paul Wolfowitz to the next head of the World Bank; believes that, as one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq, he is uniquely unsuitable to negotiate with the world's poorest countries; notes that he has no history whatsoever of demonstrating any understanding of the needs of those countries; further believes that he is the personification of how out of touch the Bush administration remains in ignoring its global responsibilities; and calls on the Government to take what steps it can to block this nomination."

We hope that this will inspire other parliamentarians to table motions and questions, not least to demand to know their governments' positions. There has already been some such activity in the European parliament, in the Netherlands, in Germany and elswhere.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:00 PM

Dutch and Swiss doubts. While many other European governments sadly seem to be leaning in the direction of accepting the US nomination, at least the Dutch and Swiss are still briefing that they are prepared to put up a fight.

"It is always elegant to have more than one candidate," Gerrit Zalm, Dutch finance minister, said on the margins of Sunday's European finance ministers meeting. "We now have to judge if he is a capable man."

The Swiss Executive Director gave an interview to Tages-Anzeiger (subs) on Friday. When asked if he would support Wolfowitz, he laughed and said "we will see", before agreeing with the interviewer that the Swiss government wanted to test Wolfowitz on his management credentials and how he would distance the Bank from US government policy.

Worryingly, though, Germany seems to have folded early. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has put out a statement indicating that he has already pledged his support for Wolfowitz in a phone call to Bush.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:51 PM

European summit confirmation. There has been confirmation from Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker that European governments will discuss the Wolfowitz appointment tomorrow at their meeting in Brussels.

And that Wolfowitz will himself come to Brussels soon to inform EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel what approach to development issues he would want to take as Bank president. No date has been determined but it looks likely to be after the decision-making board meeting on 31 March.

The European Commission has clarified that its invitation to Wolfowitz - widely reported as an acceptance of his candidature - was in fact intended to be in the spirit of an exploration of views, not an acceptance of a fait accompli.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:44 PM

Soft power. According to Oxford Analytica, "The Wolfowitz nomination suggests the Bush Administration is seeking a reorientation of the bank... with global security concerns as the overriding agenda."

The consulting firm argues that "trusted confidantes from Bush's first term" are being positioned to "orchestrate U.S. 'soft power' in support of the war on terror."

Posted by David Steven at 11:53 AM

Exhausted nations. For Wesley Pruden, Paul Wolfowitz is "a symbol of George W.'s campaign to export equality, fraternity and liberty to the miserable neighborhoods where such values have been permanent hostages to privilege, brutality and oppression."

Europe's reaction demonstrates that it is now "a nursing home for exhausted nations. We must look kindly after them, visit them occasionally and remember their birthdays, but spare them scary talk of visions of a future that does not include them."

Posted by David Steven at 10:05 AM

Post predicts management changes. The Washington Post outlines Wolfowitz's campaign to win over critics. Inexplicably the Post, which has been strongly critical itself, seems to be falling under the Wolf-man's spell, although he has said very little that you would not expect from a clever politician seeking a job.

The Post spells out that "Bush's choice of Wolfowitz has drawn opposition from many quarters, mostly focusing on the fear that the move marked a plan to use the World Bank's anti-poverty aid to reward Washington's friends, punish its enemies and advance the Bush administration's ideological agenda".

Predictions abound "that demonstrations against the bank, which have subsided in the past couple of years, would erupt anew".

Within bank staff, the Post reports "widespread trepidation that Wolfowitz will replace many top managers". As one Bank staffer told us this "will make more room for the guys from the American Enterprise Institute" (a free-market think tank).

Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development is among those finding something to welcome, however. She says "there will be a healthy new emphasis on the centrality of political institutions to the development process".

Former Bank Managing Director Jessica Einhorn says: "if there is one guy who understands how important strong institutions are, and would have first-hand appreciation for how difficult it is to get them in place, that's Paul Wolfowitz."

For those of you with Washington Post on-line subscriptions you can also check out the Tom Toles' cartoon on the Wolfowitz appointment.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:01 AM

Civil society anger. A snapshot of the diverse national civil society statements against the Wolfowitz nomination.

Rede Brasil: "the nomination of Mr. Wolfowitz is an outrage to all of us that aspire to build an international system that is more just, peaceful and committed to fostering socially and environmentally sustainable forms of development".

Right to Food Movement (Bangladesh): "Wolfowitz is a controversial person for his role in Iraq war and his nomination to head the World Bank has stunned the world".

CEE Bankwatch Network: "Mr Wolfowitz's well-known track record of unilateralism is fundamentally ill-suited to a a multilateral institution which must balance the diverse interests of its member countries".

Many of these groups also signed the joint petition, and further civil society statements are appearing all the time on IFIwatchnet.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:39 AM

Support from Wolfie's pack. Earlier, we wondered whether anyone in the Bank was happy at Paul Wolfowitz's appointment. Here's a reply...

"Well, HAPPY may be stretching it for me, a senior member of the Bank's management team, but I have the resigned feeling that it could have been much worse.

"And it's time for most observers (staff members included) to give up on the wish-list of great possibile nominations - Clinton, Dervish, Gates, even Powell - since they are just not going to happen.

"Fighting Wolfowitz too hard and having his nomination fail would potentially bring a second, worse Bush nomination that the Europeans would not have the stomach to fight a second time.

"Carly Fiorina, anyone? Or some addled Texas oilman, "all hat and no cattle"? Perhaps Bud Selig, since, using Bush's logic, the number of professional baseball players at all levels and World Bank staff at all levels are roughly the same?

"So Wolfowitz certainly brings more 'pluses' to the table than some of the other potential Bush candidates - a formidable intellect, an independent personality, administrative experience. The nomination has shown conclusively that the intent of the Bush administration is to try to use the Bank as a tool of its foreign policy. Only someone of Wolfowitz's stature and credibility with Bush can fight this - that is, once we at the Bank have partly sucked him in to our agenda."

Anyone else?

Posted by David Steven at 07:45 PM

Africans horrified. Africans have now started also to raise objections to the World Bank presidential nominee. The Reporter (Gabarone) says the appointment "raises critical issues about the independence of the institution and its ability to give development loans to countries that do not conform to the Americanisation of the world. It is clear that the White House intends to use the World Bank to spread its influence".

The Sunday Independent (South Africa) speculates that Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who heads the World Bank's development committee, might lend muscle to efforts aimed at thwarting Wolfowitz's appointment.

The former president of Senegal and now head of La Francophonie, Abdou Diouf, said on Sunday that he was "very surprised" about the nomination.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions said that it was "shocked" at the nomination of "such a conservative ... into a position which ought to be advancing the interests of the poor".

Sadly Africa has very little say in this matter which directly affects this continent more than any other.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:41 PM

Democratisation obstacles. A former Wolfowitz aide has commented that as World Bank president Wolfowitz would be likely to focus extensively on anti-corruption and democratisation. Stephen Sestanovich, a former aide to Wolfowitz who now works at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations told the Sunday Times “what has bothered people about the bank for many decades is the concern that it has just fed the preoccupations and prejudices and bank accounts of corrupt elites in backward countries”.

He added: “The Bush administration comes at that problem with a particular focus on governance, and even more narrowly on democracy, that is going to stir the place up.”

I am wondering if Mr Wolfowitz has had a chance to read the World Bank's Articles of Agreement. They clearly state (Article 6) that Bank staff "shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member or members concerned. Only economic considerations shall be relevant to their decisions, and these considerations shall be weighed impartially in order to achieve the purposes stated in this Agreement".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:25 PM

Anti-war movement aggravated. Large anti-war protests yesterday marked the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. Organisers of the London protests said "the mood of demonstrators was hardened by the Bush Administration’s nomination of Paul Wolfowitz" to the World Bank. Lindsey German, convenor of Stop The War Coalition, said "the nomination of Wolfowitz, the man who is recognised as chief architect of war with Iraq, will outrage most decent people".

She continued: "Wolfowitz is the author of the US policy of terrorising the world militarily and now the US want him to act as the enforcer of US economic terrorism around the world. Their hubris is as staggering as it is frightening and we must continue to resist their extension of their War on Terror".

Some 45,000 people turned out to march yesterday in London, and many also marched in other cities in Europe and beyond.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:13 PM

Reopening old wounds. El Universal (Mexico) bemoans the reopening of trans-Atlantic wounds that the Wolfowitz nomination has caused. It outlines the feeling in Berlin, Paris and elsehere in Europe that the administration's choice for World Bank president is a betrayal of Bush's recent promise to consult the Europeans.

El Universal considers it unlikely that Wolfowitz will be blocked, however.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:55 PM

Just shut up. We are told that the bank staff association is under pressure to stifle protest against the Wolfowitz nomination.

If you work from the Bank, make sure you get in touch with us or drop into the forum. We'll make sure your voice is heard and your anonymity protected!

Haven't received much pro-Wolfie comment yet. Is there anyone in the Bank who is happy about the news?

And if you're not happy, how do you think things will settle down if the nomination goes through as expected?

Posted by David Steven at 10:28 AM

Sackcloth and ashes. The mood at the World Bank remains funereal, but the mourning is especially spectacular amongst the Bank's Middle East specialists.

The Bank sees it key role (ppt) in the region as providing "knowledge services" (advice to you and me), rather than money.

Senior staff are said to be convinced that, with Paul Wolfowitz at the helm, they will lose credibility with their government contacts. The Bank risks being seen as an arm of US foreign policy.

Although I imagine Wolfie is worried as hell by the prospect of leading an overwhelmingly hostile staff, I imagine that he would be quite happy to see a more chilly relationship with certain governments.

Expect tough love at best from Bank if your country's on the new President's shit list!

Posted by David Steven at 10:24 AM

Sachs to intervene? Jeff Sachs has been invited by Bank chief economist, Francois Bourguignon, to a private breakfast with bank officials and executive directors on Tuesday.

We hear that Bank staff are "clamouring" to attend in the hope that Sachs will give voice to their opposition to Wolfie's appointment. Will be interesting to see how he plays it...

Posted by David Steven at 10:05 AM

Bank "a disaster". Alan Meltzer, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung that "the Bank is a disaster, and Paul Wolfowitz is the right man to make a change there". Meltzer is not just any old US economics professor (at Carnegie Mellon University) but the author of a Congressional report into the future of the Bank which is widely believed to be the template for what the Bush administration wants from the Bank.

Meltzer's comments appear to give the lie the comments by Wolfowitz this week that he would not seek a major re-orientation of the institution.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:51 AM

Wolfo opponents "getting organised". The opponents of Wolfowitz for World Bank president are getting themselves organised and may be able to form an alliance, according to Austrian ORF in two articles. This despite Bush's best efforts to divide Europe once again on an important foreign policy issue. Europe must look to link up with developing countries on this, the piece argues.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:45 AM

Stiglitz explains implications. Joseph Stiglitz has called the Wolfowitz nomination "an act of provocation by America" and called on Europe to stand up and veto it. If not, he fears, "the US will try to push through almost anything it wants." Stiglitz knows what he is talking about, as former World Bank Chief Economist and chair of the US Council of Economic Advisers

He comments in an interview with Channel 4's Liam Halligan: "so what if the rest of the Western world is talking about global poverty? The US wants to demonstrate it can do whatever it wants. The only way to hold power, after all, is to exercise power. This nomination is the exercise of power."

With a neocon US politician at the helm of the Bank: "good reforms, including efforts to tackle poverty and disease, will be tainted. Governments in developing countries will come under enormous pressure, with elections being fought on whether or not they will kick out the World Bank."

"My worry," concludes Stiglitz, "is the World Bank will now become an explicit instrument of US foreign policy. It will presumably take a lead role in Iraqi reconstruction, for instance".

Your views? Join our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:36 AM

To know me is to love me. According to Reuters, Wolfie is selling a four-part message to the international community...

I'm "multidimensional" (aren't we all?). I'm a consensus builder. I care passionately about the poor. And I'll grow on you once you get to know me!

Posted by David Steven at 05:12 PM

New World Bank. "There's nothing worse than being turned down for credit when you're busy running a country.

"That won't happen again with the NewWorldBank Premier Rewards Card. With no preset spending limits and unlimited overdraft protection you have the freedom to build that ice palace in the desert or turn that extra rain forest into plantations.

"Plus you earn rewards every time you use it! Build a new dam? Earn Rewards. Wipe out enemies? Earn rewards. You spend, you earn with the only card that gets your country the credit it deserves!"

This and more from the New World Bank.

Posted by David Steven at 04:59 PM

FT: strong comments. Following its strong editorial yesterday the Financial Times has an article and interview on Wolfowitz. Yesterday it said Wolfowitz at the World Bank would be like having the "fox in charge of the chicken coop" (surely they meant wolf).

The editorial continued: "the world would view a bank directed by Mr Wolfowitz as no more than an instrument of US power and US priorities. Every piece of advice the bank gave and condition it set would be made illegitimate, in the eyes of recipients, by the perception that it served the interests of the world's 'sole superpower'. The impact on the bank's legitimacy would be hugely damaging".

Today a long follow-up piece (subs) by Demetri Sevastopulo and Andrew Balls profiles Wolfowitz "the hight priest of hawks". Some extracts:
1) "his ability to be independent [of the US administration] could be compromised by his ties to the inner circles of hte Bush administration";
2) "the Bank presidency provides a bully pulpit for its incumbent";
3) "many Pentagon insiders say he has been an ineffective manager", and;
4) "Wolfowitz is not praised for his multilateralist credentials - he authorised a policy precluding countries outside the US-led coalition from bidding for Iraqi construction contracts".

It notes the concern of the East Timorese prime minister that Wolfowitz was very close to the Suharto regime which dominated Indonesia for thirty years.

The long Wolfowitz interview (subs) with the FT does not include many gems but does have some longer answers than elsewhere on topics such as how Wolfowitz would approach democratisation.

The FT.com on-line poll is still running at over 80% against Wolfowitz. Our one is likewise.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:22 PM

Good news for Europeans. Daniel Drezner believes Wolfie's appointment is actually good news for the Europeans:

"No neocon worth their salt would want Bolton at the UN or Wolfowitz at the Bank -- because neocons don't believe these institutions are particularly relevant. What matters is who is ruling the roost inside the beltway.

"And in DC, the balance of power has shifted to State -- and the people that are there have signaled a willingness to listen to the Europeans.

"Compared to what they faced during the Powell/Rumsfeld wars, this is a much more hospitable environment for European diplomats."

Posted by David Steven at 03:46 PM

Turn out the lights. "A senior person at the world bank HR department told me today that the internal site that calculates pension benefits for world bank employees experienced its highest point yesterday in the number of hits," a correspondent tells us.

"I wonder how can Mr. Wolfowitz make his tenure a success if the most experienced staff, who qualify now for early retirement, decide to leave ?!"

Update: "Just makes more room for all those new guys from the AEI," notes an emailer...

Posted by David Steven at 02:36 PM

F****ed that one up. If you got a decent connection, make sure you watch The Daily Show's Jon Stewart on Wolfie's nomination.

If not, you'll have to make do with our transcription...

Jon Stewart: Let’s begin tonight with the World Bank. It’s the leader in lending money to developing nations. It’s an organisation dedicated to rebuilding, through wise fiscal policy, impoverished parts of the world.

That’s why it was a bit of a surprise this morning, when a man better known for destroying some of those very same areas, Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, was named by President Bush as his choice to take over the World Bank.

Wolfowitz (whose name manages the rare feat of sounding both ferocious and Jewy (?) – it’s not easy) has no background in economics and is best known as the architect of the War on Iraq. Yet he’s been tabbed to replace current World Bank president, James Wolfensohn.

Evidently the president makes these choices alphabetically.

Wolfowitz's qualifications came up during the President’s press conference this morning. [Switches to press conference]

Question: Paul Wolfowitz, who is the -- a chief architect of one of the most unpopular wars in history, is your choice to be...

President Bush: (Laughs) That's an interesting start. Heh heh.

Stewart: [Imitating Bush] Heh heh. It’s a… Eh. Zing! That’s an interesting start. The truth. We don’t usually start with that.

Alright, Mr President why did you choose Paul Wolfowitz? [Switches back to press conference].

Bush: I said he was a man of good experiences.

Stewart: A man of good experiences? Alright, although I might add [shows picture] each member of Motley Crue meets that description. What else do you have? [Switches to conference]

Bush: He helped manage a large organization. The World Bank's a large organization; the Pentagon's a large organization.

Stewart: [Imitating Bush] They’re similar sizes. For instance, I’m the President of American. Means I can also be President of Indonesia – same size! It’s all about how big it is.

To be fair, we should perhaps judge Wolfowitz on his record in rebuilding Iraq. Here he is discussing why the security situation will be very stable after the war. [Switches to tape]

Wolfowitz: It’s hard to concede that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-war Iraq, than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine...

Stewart. And yet… that’s what happened. Oooh. OK. He missed that one. But that’s a people thing. A lot of people could miss that. Let’s see how he did explaining why the Iraq war won’t cost us very much.

Wolfowitz: The oil revenue of that country could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over course of the next two or three years. We are dealing with a country that can fund its own reconstruction and relatively soon.

Stewart: [Incredulous silence] Fucked that one up too! Alright. But still…Pentagon…World Bank…similar size.

[Via Crooks and Liars]

Posted by David Steven at 02:20 PM

First meetings with country reps. Wolfowitz yesterday met executive directors for Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and France. Reuters was informed about these meetings by Wolfowitz, but the latter gives little away about the substance or outcomes of the meetings. The piece also confirms that the interviewing process is likely to last "about two weeks".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:47 PM

Wolfowitz on Africa, grants and restructuring. Le Figaro carries an interview with Paul Wolfowitz. The World Bank president nominee is guarded about most points. But some responses are interesting. On Africa he agrees that “my experience is limited”, except for the large role he played in the decision to intervene militarily in Somalia in 1992. He still believes that was the right decision. If approved as Bank president he tells Le Figaro he would go to Africa as soon as possible.

On the question of whether the Bank should provide loans or grants to the poorest countries Wolfowitz at first uses his stock phrase this week of “wanting to hear all opinions on the subject” then states that there has been a 30 year trend toward debt relief and increasing grants. This strongly implies that he supports the US government position on the subject.

On how much he would seek to change at the Bank he first praised the outgoing president then states “I am sure there are things to change, as in all large organisations. It was also the case at the Defense Department. … But believe me I am not going to the Bank with a pre-prepared political programme or critique. We do need to convince donor countries to be more generous and need to convince taxpayers that their money is spent wisely”.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:37 PM

Mallaby on the button. Sebastian Mallaby is right on the button in switching the focus to a crucial question:

Whether or not Paul Wolfowitz would make a good World Bank president in theory, will he be able to do a good job in practice, given the immense opposition to his appointment?

Three issues:

Will opposition from staff make it impossible for him to function effectively? He will have to lead 10,000 people - the vast majority of whom are not in a mood to be led. Will his own officials brief and leak against him or can he turn them round?

Given that many governments will only give grudging approval to the Wolfowitz appointment (if that), will the new president find it impossible to gain support from donors when it comes to pushing through tough decisions?

And will the Bank find its ability to act hindered by a colossal increase in pressure from activists?

"The permanent establishment of World Bank critics - who had been diverted to protesting [about] the Iraq war - can now do both at once," Mallaby comments. "It's like Christmas for them."

Posted by David Steven at 01:31 PM

UK to lead move to veto? Below, Alex suggests that the British and Italians (!) should take responsibility for proposing a veto of Paul Wolfowitz, in the hope that Germany and France might join in.

Having canvassed opinion quite widely, I see little evidence that the Brits - although unhappy at the nomination - would consider such a move!

Posted by David Steven at 01:15 PM

Who do you trust? The case for war, as Paul Wolfowitz saw it back in January 2003.

"I must say I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the U.S. government. The real issue is, can you trust Saddam Hussein? And it seems to me the record is absolutely clear that you can't.

"And we're going to have to have some very powerful evidence that he has changed and that we can trust him, because otherwise, we are trusting our security in the hands of a man who makes ricin, who makes anthrax, who makes botulism toxin, who makes aflatoxin, and who has no compunctions whatsoever about consorting with terrorists.

"Who do you want to trust?"

Posted by David Steven at 01:12 PM

Germany and France might join veto. Babette Stern, in Le Monde reviews the reactions of different countries to the Wolfowitz nomination. Stern thinks that, despite their strong reservations, neither France nor Germany will take the initiative to push for a veto. But that they would, she feels, be prepared to join in if a coalition to oppose Wolfowitz begins to form.

This puts further responsibility on the British government, perhaps with the Italians, Nordics and Dutch, to make the first move. The article mentions that pressure is growing from NGO campaigners, including through the sign-on statement released yesterday.

Stern argues that European governments are balancing their own views and public opinion with a wish not to upset the recent moves to normalise trans-Atlantic relations after the Iraq breakdown.

She also bemoans the absence of African or other developing country voices about the leader of an institution which affects them very directly.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:10 PM

An excellent choice. The UK's Telegraph praises George Bush for making an excellent choice.

"[Mr Wolfowitz's] belief, which may yet be validated in Iraq, that a civic society of free people provides the best framework for reducing poverty should enhance rather than undermine the work of the World Bank. Mr Bush has made an excellent choice."

Posted by David Steven at 12:40 PM

Give me a chance. "I wouldn't be taking on this huge responsibility if I didn't believe in the mission,'' Paul Wolfowitz tells Bloomberg. "The more people I meet with, the more I will understand.''

Anyone else think he's sounding a little desperate?

Posted by David Steven at 12:36 PM

Serious about Africa? Oppose Wolfowitz. Noreena Hertz, writing in today's Guardian, urges Tony Blair to reject Wolfowitz as World Bank president. She points out that "the Bush administration is unabashedly forthright in its pursuit of self-interest, and in its willingness to use aid as a tool to promote its geo-political goals". Hertz says that "if Blair is serious about making poverty history, he will have to do away with such diplomatic niceties" and take a stand against the US on this.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 10:01 AM

Nice, but wrong. "Critics are wrong to portray Wolfowitz as a malevolent genius," writes Michael Lind.

"In fact, he's friendly, soft-spoken, well meaning and thoughtful. He would be the model of a scholar and a statesman but for one fact: He is completely inept."

three-decade career in U.S. foreign policy can be summed up by the term that President Bush coined to describe the war in Iraq that Wolfowitz promoted and helped to oversee: a 'catastrophic success.' "

Thanks to GG for this and other great links. Overwhelming correspondence from many readers in the last few days - many many thanks and keep them coming...

Posted by David Steven at 07:19 PM

Head in the stars. Paul Wolfowitz, the Office of Really Special Plans, 17 miles across the Caspian Sea, President-elect cyber-Cheney, mandatory gay marriages, and a real space case with his head in the stars...

Billmon looks into the future - read the whole thing!

Posted by David Steven at 07:14 PM

World Bank statement. "The Executive Directors have agreed to conduct informal meetings over the coming days with the United States' nominee as part of the consultative process on this subject," the World Bank states.

"Thereafter, the Executive Directors will meet in formal session to select the President, at which time an official announcement of the outcome will be made."

Posted by David Steven at 07:05 PM

Wolfowitz background exposed. For those who think that the announcements by Bush and Wolfowitz on Wednesday may have glossed over some of the more interesting aspects of his track record, help is at hand. We can recommend articles in the Village Voice, the Asia Times, the East Timor Action Network, and Indonesia Alert.

Village Voice is probably the best of the bunch, as it contrasts the main claims for Wolfowitz to get the job with acerbic and up to date commentary on his performance at the Pentagon and State Department. One illustrative extract is: "the Government Accountability Office (Congress's investigative arm) released a report on how effectively and efficiently the Pentagon's "transformation" of the armed services—an effort running to the hundreds of billions of dollars—has been going. The report pointedly noted an 'absence of clear leadership and accountability'".

Many of these links are from postings on our increasingly active web forum. Feel free to join in, and also share the articles you think most insightful for others to learn from.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:42 PM

More clarity on decision timings. We have just learned that the Wolfowitz nomination for World Bank president will be discussed by European heads of state at lunchtime next Tuesday. European premiers will be gathering in Brussels for a European Council meeting. Discussions are underway about how to ensure that even more pressure is built on the leaders before they meet. European executive directors to the Bank will also meet together for the first time next week. The vote at the board is expected on 31 March.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:32 PM

Increasing pressure on European governments. A multi-country petition challenging the choice of Paul Wolfowitz for World Bank president has met an unprecedented response. It has attracted 1,255 signatories from 68 countries within 30 hours. Eurodad is still receiving signatures at a rate of one a minute. Organisations in different countries have sent it to their heads of state and are pressing for a clear and firm response. More is explained in the press release.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:45 PM

Wolfowitz Derangement Syndrome. Roger Simon detects racism in European reaction to the Wolfowitz nomination.

"You would think a Jewish and an Arab intellectual (both quite adult) being romantically involved would be applauded by "progressive" Europe, but I guess not," he writes.

Wolfowitz may not have much development experience, Simon admits, but he reckons that "one of the brainiest government officials" will soon be up-to-speed.

"In sum, what is the cause of this Wolfowitz Derangement Syndrome that is creating such a brouhaha in Europe?" Simon concludes.

"Well, let's hope it's not a fear that Wolfowitz, as World Bank president, might want to make all aid dealings of the bank transparent. That wouldn't reflect well on our European friends, would it?"

Posted by David Steven at 03:33 PM

On-line polls challenge Wolfowitz. You can now make clear your opinions on the Wolfowitz nomination on our on-line poll (see right).

The Financial Times has also launched an on-line poll today. It is currently running at 82 per cent against Wolfowitz.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:52 PM

Bank staff direct anger also at Europeans. Two interesting e-mails have reached us showing that the bitterness of Bank staff also being partly directed towards the Europeans. The Bank staff fear being let down. One Bank staffer wrote: "If this appointment goes ahead much of our dismay should be directed at the Europeans for abandoning an institution to which they pay plenty of lip service but are unwilling to stand by."

And another: "I'm outraged at the Europeans, who regularly attack the US for his unilateral actions, but who eventually might decide not to fight this decision. The idea of doing my job the best that you can in an institution who has little credibility in the world is not uplifting".

"The fact that Wolfowitz was chosen on ideological grounds, and not based on his competence or experience in development is truly damaging for the little reputation that the Bank has tried to build in the past few years. We are going to be a multilateral institution represented by the most controversial, ideologically-driven neo conservative, who's most likely going to stir the direction of our mandate towards some democracy crusade defined according to US interests. '50 years is enough' even greeted the nomination on the following grounds: "With Wolfowitz in place, the Bank's masterful spinners of noble rhetoric will be unable to persuade anyone that the institution is really working for the benefit of the poor. We'll finally be able to use the word 'imperialism' about Bank policy without raising eyebrows".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:49 PM

Free-market fundamentalism. An interesting article from prominent US economist Paul Krugman takes Wolfowitz to task for his role in Iraq reconstruction planning. Krugman argues that this is the closest relevant experience that Wolfowitz has to what he would have to do at the Bank. He comments: "the administration went into Iraq determined to demonstrate the virtues of radical free-market economics, with nobody warning about the likely problems. What happened there is likely to make countries distrust any economic advice Mr. Wolfowitz might give".

Krugman mentions that Moisés Naím, editor of Foreign Policy, says that the Wolfowitz nomination turns the World Bank into the American Bank. Krugman goes further: "make that ugly American bank". He concludes: "rightly or not, developing countries will see Mr. Wolfowitz's selection as a sign that we're still trying to impose policies they believe have failed".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 11:35 AM

Bank staff "feel like at a funeral". Another Bank staff member has been in touch. They comment: "the mood here in the bank in the last 2 days is one of shock and disgust. It feels like a funeral here. From a public relations point of view, this is a disaster. It took years for us to disassociate the bank from the bad old days of being on a leach for the US and the days of Bob McNamara, now we are in a worst position ever by being the tool of not even the US as a whole, but neo-conservatism."

"People are arguing how can we now credibly present the bank to our clients, specially since many poor countries we deal with are in the Islamic world or with significant Muslim populations."

"Many staff are privately talking about resigning or, if they are lucky, retiring."

More such views were expressed yesterday here and on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 10:34 AM

"European battle lines hardening". A strong piece in the Washington Post outlines the anger of Europeans and predicts that "a fight will rage for several weeks" before the Bank board decides whether to appoint Wolfowitz. It outlines "fresh denunciations in European capitals, where critics fumed that Washington had failed to consult other member countries of the bank before springing its choice on them".

The Post features the comments of an unnamed European Executive Director saying: ""The Treasury Department is trying to give the impression that a deal is done, but there is no deal done. No one has any question about [Wolfowitz's] intellect, but the problem is, he's the face of a certain American hegemony, in the opinion of many European directors, and that does not fit the role of the bank."

The US Treasury is disputing the Europeans' claims that they were not consulted. The Post records Treasury claims that it "reached agreement with policymakers in other countries that the next World Bank president should have qualities such as management experience, international diplomatic experience and commitment to development", and that "Paul Wolfowitz meets and exceeds each and all of these criteria." The problem with this argument, as exposed by us on Wednesday, is that the criteria are far too broad to amount to a watertight role profile. And the point the Europeans and others are making is that at shortlisting stage they should have had a say on whether the potential US candidates fit the bill.

The Post also notes the controversy among Bank staff over Wolfowitz's reported romantic relationship with Shaha Riza, an Arab feminist who works as a communications adviser in the bank's Middle East and North Africa department. A Wolfowitz spokesman told the Post "needless to say, if a personal relationship presents a potential conflict of interest, I will comply with bank policies to resolve the issue."

The piece does predict that Wolfowitz will get the job in the end, but that the process might last until the Bank/Fund Spring Meetings on 16-17 April.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:18 AM

Woicke weighs in. Peter Woicke, the German who recently finished his stint as head of World Bank Group private sector arm the IFC, has contributed to the debate about Wolfowitz. Writing in the Financial Times, Woicke comments that the issue is not how much Wolfowitz might politicise the Bank. Instead he says it is whether the World Bank will continue its shift from "an organisation that viewed its role in terms of patronising, top-down prescriptions for governments, to an innovative, dynamic one that works collaboratively with a variety of partners in developing nations".

On the circumstances surrounding the nomination, Woicke is crystal clear. He writes: "you would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the international development community to defend the current process for selecting a new president of the World Bank Group. It is widely denounced as a highly politicised insiders' game that is decided by a few telephone calls from the White House to European capitals".

On an optimistic note he joins those who believe that the current fuss means that the system "is likely to change in the future".

The debate about Wolfowitz and his track record is hotting up on our web forum. Feel free to join in.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:51 AM

Europeans make demands, maybe. Reuters has been talking to the European Executive Directors who are considering asking for a separate interview with Wolfowitz, to reflect their concern about whether he's right for the job.

Fiercesome stuff. Don't think the directors are being too headstrong though. According to another source Reuters digs up, "the European directors also decided to wait before they made their move to interview Wolfowitz, to see if any other countries put forward opposing candidates."

Posted by David Steven at 07:34 AM

Wolfowitz seeks reflected Bono glory. Paul Wolfowitz called Bono yesterday. The conversation was supposedly to gather views on poverty and debt relief. But Wolfowitz's camp has broadcast to the media the fact that a conversation took place and is seeking to gain some legitimation from that fact.

Wolfowitz evidently targeted Bono because there had been for a while a media frenzy about the possibility that the latter might become World Bank president. The U2 man would have certainly made a more popular choice than the US one.

It is not known whether Bono took his chance to re-express his views on the US approach to the Iraq war, led among others by Wolfowitz. Just before the war started Bono opined: "with the unimaginable levels of economic, cultural and military weight that the United States has, there must come humility and restraint. I'm all for President Bush trying to scare the sh-- out of Saddam Hussein, but you have to bring along the rest of the world. It is a mistake to go to war without the United Nations behind them, because that looks like the U.S. doesn't need to explain itself, and I think it does."

DATA - the campaign organisation established by the U2 singer to work with him on Africa issues commented vaguely to Reuters following yesterday's phone conversation with Wolfowitz that "Bono thought it was important that he put forward the issues that are critical to the World Bank, like debt cancellation, aid effectiveness and a real focus on poverty reduction". We will seek further clarification from them later.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:37 AM

Further outrage from senior European parliamentarians. "Bush's overtures to Europe during his visit and talk about global partnership were nothing more than lip service. In his nominations for important international posts he is obviously continuing to pursue a stubborn unilateral course. His candidate Paul Wolfowitz represents everything that we as Europeans don't want". These are the words of Monica Frassoni, Co-President of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament.

The statement calls for a common European statement as soon as possible.

Frassoni is also on the board of the 1,000 strong Parliamentarians Network on the World Bank. We are optimistic that this network is (not before time) about to swing into action on this question which is clearly of vital importance to their agenda.

Meanwhile in the Dutch parliament a member demanded that this issue be placed on the agenda of the European heads of state meeting next week. Others are following suit in making the same request of their leaders.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:34 AM

Staff Association Action. The World Bank Staff Association is fighting for its say on the Wolfowitz nomination, according to an internal email doing the rounds.

"While recognizing that the selection and confirmation of the next World Bank president is the prerogative of the shareholders, staff are asking that their views be taken into consideration and taken seriously by the decision-makers.

"The Staff Association is preparing to act as a conduit for these views, and the Executive Committee is urgently considering the most effective way to help staff be heard.

"A Staff Association delegation is meeting with Mr. Wolfensohn this afternoon, we are in touch with the Board, and we will get back to you as soon as possible on next steps.

"Please be assured that the Staff Association is prepared to take action and work to ensure that staff views are heard."

I've been wondering how Mr Wolfowitz is going to fare taking charge of an organisation whose staff seem - by and large - opposed to his appointment...

Posted by David Steven at 11:40 PM

Fifty signatures an hour. The statement of concern about the Wolfowitz appointment launched earlier today is gathering fifty signatures an hour. The statement will be finalised and launched tomorrow at 16.00 Brussels. time. Circulate widely.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:00 PM

Bad genius alert. Indymedia is taking the news well...

"Globally Wolfowitz is known as the bad genius behind the waged US wars," Henk Ruyssenaars writes, "and amid global opposition he is expected to head the World Bank, one of the world's biggest criminal institutions, thus a dirty job that fits Wolfowitz well."

Posted by David Steven at 06:01 PM

Full text of Wolfowitz statement to Bank. We have just obtained, and posted, Paul Wolfowitz’s statement of candidacy to the Bank board (word doc). The statement is long on rhetoric and very short on substance. Some elements are interesting, however, and are commented on below.

Warm words
Wolfowitz’s statement is full of positive, but general, comments such as “helping people out of poverty is both a noble mission and a matter of enlightened self-interest”. In fact in the 650 word speech the word "noble" appears three times.

Wolfensohn’s legacy
He commented that Wolfensohn: “has deepened the Bank’s commitment to poverty reduction, emphasizing key factors such as education, health-particularly HIV/AIDS, women, youth and the environment.” He continues: “Jim Wolfensohn has also brought an important focus on issues of transparency, accountability and governance”. Given the murky circumstances of his own nomination for the Bank position that is ironic indeed.

Overtures to Bank staff.
Wolfowitz comments that he looks forward to working with “the extraordinary group of professionals who work at the World Bank” and that he plans to listen to “rely on a lot of listening to those who have served the poor”. Meanwhile we have heard that many World Bank staffmembers are horrified at their likely next president.

Indonesian development
He says: “I then spent three years in Indonesia where economic development was the most important issue on the agenda. I saw first-hand what the World Bank could accomplish, working in support of dedicated development professionals in the Indonesian government and from many donor countries.”

This bland statement may anger those who are still angry about the dictatorial Suharto regime in power at the time in Indonesia. And those who remember the official report (the Loos report) which concluded that almost one third of World Bank loans to Indonesia under Suharto may have gone astray as corruption.

Full text of Paul Wolfowitz’s statement.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:40 PM

All paths lead to oil. Jim Vallette has no doubt what lies behind Wolfovitz's nomination - US control of global oil supplies.

"The Bank’s reticence to finance projects in Iraq may have pushed Cheney and gang over the edge, he writes, "ushering [Wolfowitz] the embodiment of U.S. unilateralism into his anointed role.

"With Wolfowitz in charge, the World Bank may be able to complete what the Iraq invasion started two years ago: U.S. corporate control over the world’s second-largest oil reserves."

Posted by David Steven at 05:32 PM

Bank staff views. One World Bank staffer has e-mailed us to say “I know 10s of staff members who are horrified at the prospects and its implications on their ability to work with clients credibly”.

Another that there is “general shock and outrage at his inappropriateness” and that the World Bank e-mail system is clogged by the circulation of anti-Wolfowitz articles.

Of course Bank staff have to cope with regulations about making public statements so are not able to speak on the record. Some have, however, taken a risk by appealing to their Executive Director to the Bank appealing for him to block the nominee.

Bank staff, as others, can make views known on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:25 PM

Complex Bush diplomacy? A piece on Stratfor (subs) has an interesting analysis of why Wolfowitz may be moving from Defense. It says: “by firing Wolfowitz, Bush is making a substantial gesture toward Muslim analysts, for whom Wolfowitz's power has become a fundamental belief. Bush now appears to be making a gesture that he is shifting policy from a rigid war-fighting strategy to a political strategy.”

It continues: “at a time when the administration is looking for negotiating partners in the region, Wolfowitz's head on a platter is a way to signal U.S. willingness to talk. Sending Wolfowitz off to the World Bank makes negotiations easier.”

The piece says the appointment may be part of Bush “having fun” in his second term by causing “apoplexy in the international community”. Bush may even make domestic political capital out of it. This is because “the appointment is certain to infuriate supporters of the World Bank which will cause them to universally condemn it”, paradoxically increasing support for Bush back home.

Stratfor does not find any logical reason for the Wolfowitz appointment. “He has never struck us as a man who was deeply concerned with micro-development projects for abused women in Bangladesh. Demonstrating that God -- or George W. Bush -- has a superb sense of humor, Wolfowitz will now worry about things like this rather than the deployment of carrier battle groups”.

Your comments? Join our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:59 PM

Strong critique from senior German. A senior German parliamentarian has made a very strong statement against the Wolfowitz nomination. Michael Mueller, a deputy leader of the ruling Social Democrats slammed the US nomination and called on Europe to fight the move. "The recommendation ... is devastating. The cold warrior has already proven he is an arsonist".

Mueller warned Wolfowitz at the Bank would create "a militarisation of thinking" and cause "instability and crisis". He urged European leaders had to do everything possible to prevent Wolfwitz being given the post.

Thilo Hoppe and Fritz Kuhn, spokesmen for coalition partners the Greens, also suggested Schroeder will have to be careful in responding. They said Wolfowitz was "not a good choice" and that he was unacceptable unless he changed policy.

Meanwhile Nicole Bacharan, a French commentator on U.S. affairs, commented (Reuters): "Bolton followed by Wolfowitz sounds like a declaration of war -- and if not that, a declaration of contempt (for Europe)".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:35 PM

European parliament statement. The Chair of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, Louisa Morgantini, has written on behalf of her Committee calling on European governments "to open up the process to accept other candidates".

The letter also makes a range of further points about the process, and sets out some criteria for the selection.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:47 PM

Benn equivocates. An interestingly equivocal statement has just emerged from UK Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn.

Benn holds the door open for another candidate to emerge and makes it clear that the UK is not prepared to see a rapid confirmation of Paul Wolfowitz - due process must be gone through.

“I note the USA’s nomination of Mr Wolfowitz with interest," reads the statement. "We wait to see if there are any other candidates, as there is of course a process that has to be gone through in which the views of developing countries are important. It is the Bank Board which makes the decision. It is important that this is a transparent process.

"What interests me is Mr Wolfowitz’s vision for the future of the World Bank in reducing international poverty at a time when the need to make much faster progress has never been clearer.”

Posted by David Steven at 12:40 PM

Protest statement: sign by Friday. Eurodad has launched a sign-on statement on the World Bank presidency nomination. This will be a public expression of concern aiming to build pressure on European heads of state. It will be issued with signatures tomorrow (Friday 18th) late afternoon.

Please sign and also circulate further to your contacts.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 11:39 AM

Power of the Tsunami. According to the Washington Post, it was the shocking impact of the Asian tsunami that turned Paul Wolfowitz's mind towards running the World Bank (but we hear that his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, was also instrumental in urging him to seek the job). According to close associates, he started thinking seriously about leaving two months ago, spurred by a January tour of the devastation in Southeast Asia caused by the tsunami.

The scenes of death and destruction that he viewed in Indonesia and Sri Lanka played on Wolfowitz's long interest in Third World issues of poverty and peace, according to this account, and got him looking at what new career move he could make to help in this area.

Posted by David Steven at 11:07 AM

A listening president? Speaking to the FT, Paul Wolfowitz has begun to lay out his approach to his new job.

“Before I have my own vision, I need to do a lot of listening,” he says.

“I look forward to meeting the European executive directors and the European finance ministers and development ministers. I know that in this job I would be working for them as members of the Bank. I think they'll find me a good listener, and I know I have a lot that I need to hear and understand.

“I had very good conversations on the phone today with a number of leaders around the world, including the Spanish managing director of the [International Monetary Fund], Rodrigo de Rato, who was very positive.

“People who know me well from my development experience like the prime minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz, or Sri Mulyani, the economic development minister of Indonesia, are very positive. I hope as others get to know me in this field, they'll form a similar opinion.

“This is not about changing the agenda of the World Bank. The agenda of the World Bank is about poverty reduction, about helping billions of people lift themselves up out of misery. It's a unifying mission that brings people together, and I look forward to that opportunity.

“Problems like poverty and HIV/Aids need to be addressed for their own sake as humanitarian issues, but it's also the case that soundly-based economic development supports the advance of liberty and freedom as well.”

Posted by David Steven at 10:32 AM

Guardian eggs on Europeans. "Europeans - who remember how the US managed to veto the German candidate to head the IMF last year - should now state their objections to Mr Wolfowitz loud and clear," the Guardian argues in an editorial.

Posted by David Steven at 09:04 AM

Happy Democrats. Not all US Democrats are upset by the Wolfowitz nomination.

Senator Joe Biden believes that Wolfowitz - "a brilliant guy and a serious person" - is a "solid" choice, who is thought of as "a serious intellectual and an engine of change" in European capitals.

Senator Patrick Leahy takes a similar line:

"I know him to be an extraordinarily intelligent, creative thinker who has the potential to do a good job at the World Bank."

Via Glenn Reynolds...

Posted by David Steven at 08:30 AM

McNamara Mark II? A number of comparisons are being made between Paul Wolfowitz and Robert McNamara. The latter also left the Defense Department to become Bank president as the Vietnam war spiralled in the late 1960s. Fred Kaplan in Slate commented that Wolfowitz: "may be a latter-day Robert McNamara—a war-weary Pentagon master seeking refuge to wring the blood from his hands".

Former UK Development Secretary Clare Short told the BBC World Service that there are two major differences, however. 1) that Wolfowitz, unlike McNamara, has shown no regret for the Iraq war. And 2) that Wolfowitz has shown no interest in poverty or development issues.

Short concluded that Wolfowitz would need a "conversion on the road to the Bank" which she saw little chance of happenning.

Dave Timms, a campaigner with World Development Movement, went further. He said it was "a truly terrifying appointment. You can't have a situation where rich countries lecture developing countries about democracy and then aren't prepared to exercise democracy in this kind of appointment".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:05 AM

Bumps in the road. Howard LaFranchi and David Francis also expect a "bumpy ratification process"...

Posted by David Steven at 12:02 AM

Bruising fight ahead. The Times of London notes that President Bush has provoked "howls of outrage from foes and a distinct lack of enthusiasm from friends" by nominating Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank.

It expects a "potentially bruising fight" between the Europeans and Americans over confirmation. A Downing Street spokesperson told the newspaper: "“It is important to wait for the end of the appointment process and, of course, we will be involved in discussions and consultations with the US and others. It is important for us that the World Bank takes forward the challenging agenda we are setting for Africa”.

Posted by David Steven at 11:54 PM

Up for the job. Slate's Robert Kaplan suggests that Paul Wolfowitz has been eagerly pursuing the World Bank presidency and wonders whether he may be the man for the job.

"Wolfowitz is a sort of optimistic globalist who believes in the World Bank's essential tenet: that the developed world can improve the troubled, less-developed world with the aid of rational principles," he writes.

Posted by David Steven at 11:48 PM

US "couldn't care less". A source "close to the Bank" says the appointment shows that the US government "couldn't care less what the rest of the world thinks." The official told Reuters' Lesley Wroughton that when Wolfowitz's name was informally circulated a couple of weeks ago to the Bank's board the unfavourable reaction was made perfectly clear to Treasury Secretary John Snow.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 11:30 PM

Wolfowitz idealist? "I remember once when the President, in the middle of a discussion about a particular country said, 'just how brutal are its leaders?' " Paul Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus.

"I thought it was an incredibly perceptive question and it's too often left out of the equation as a sort of pragmatic view that you've got to deal with them as the leaders of country X and you shouldn't inquire too deeply into what kind of people they are.

"I think you do have to deal with all kinds of dubious characters in the world in order to accomplish the national security objectives of the country.

"But it's really important to keep in mind what this country is about. It's a lot more than just physical security or economic health."

Via Instapundit.

Posted by David Steven at 11:25 PM

Wolfowitz's inside track. Paul Wolfowitz is being roundly criticised for knowing little about development, but he does have an inside track on the World Bank.

His partner is Shaha Ali Riza, an Arab feminist and senior World Bank official...

According to the Telegraph: "It would amaze the detractors who depict Wolfowitz as part of a narrow-minded Jewish lobby that one of the most important people in his life is, in fact, an Arab woman whose job is to promote gender equality in West Asia and North Africa.

"It will doubtless also surprise many of his supporters."

Posted by David Steven at 11:08 PM

Will Wolfowitz get the job? At worldbankpresident.org, we suspect Paul Wolfowitz's nomination is just the beginning of the story...

Will President Bush get his controversial choice through the World Bank's board? Not-a-pundit has been doing the math...

"By my rough count, the U.S. would only be able pull together 52% of the vote in a fight, and that's with both the Japanese and Belgian Executive Directors backing Wolfie.

"With the French, German, Spanish, Icelandic, Brazilian, Algerian, and Peruvian EDs all more likely to oppose than not, a vote could be close."

Posted by David Steven at 10:05 PM

Froths and fits. Advice from the American Digest: FILE UNDER: "How to make your enemies froth at the mouth, set their hair on fire, and run from the room screaming 'I got the fear!' "

The Corner is enjoying the fun: "Oh the fits that are coming from the Left!" And sure enough, Democratic Underground has gone ballistic...

One World Bank staff member writing on the site comments: "the aristocratic disdain, blinkered mentality and unwillingness to compromise of Bush, are overwhelming. I am depressed. I have to go draft an agreement and I'm almost too depressed to even contemplate working because of this announcement".

You get a different view in this comment thread at Little Green Footballs:

"What I like about this is that Bush is saying a big fat "Fuck You" to the 400+ million Europeans and 1+ billion Muslims who think that Paul Wolfowitz is the King of the Jews who run America.

"To all of these 1+ billion raging psychotic Nazi Jew-haters, all I can say is that I hope your heads explode in rage."

According to another commenter: "I don't understand exactly why the moonbats are flying into walls over this; the Bush Administration is in favor of grants (that do not have to be repaid) as opposed to loans to eligible countries. This decreases their debt load, I presume.

"Maybe Wolfowitz will tie loan or grant eligibility to a regime change in these countries; which in most cases is the root cause of their economic and social woes anyway."

Posted by David Steven at 09:41 PM

Screw up, run Bank. David Corn joins the Economist in making the Paul McNamara link...

"Bush is establishing a bipartisan tradition: you screw up a war, you get to run the World Bank," he notes...

Posted by David Steven at 09:27 PM

Media contacts. Lots of journalists trying to get in touch tonight. Both Alex and I have been fielding lots of calls - if you're trying to get through to us, keep trying...

We'll try and round up the links tomorrow - and will also be sampling the reaction on the blogosphere. Email a link if you're covering this story - we want to hear both from those who are delighted and those who are appalled...

And link to worldbankpresident.org as we bring you all the news...

Posted by David Steven at 09:22 PM

Economist cautious. The Economist finds much to look forward to in a Wolfowitz presidency - Bush's nominee is prepared to be controversial, and able to articulate a bold vision.

But will a focus on democracy blur the Bank's economic mission? And can Mr Wolfowitz assert independence from the White House?

"It is perhaps instructive to look at the history of another man who came out of America’s defence department to head the World Bank: Robert McNamara, who as defence secretary was an architect of the Vietnam war," the paper writes.

"Steven Radelet of the Centre for Global Development, speaking to CNN, points out that Mr McNamara was accused of picking aid recipients based on their support for America’s foreign policy, rather than their suitability for assistance. Will Mr Wolfowitz be able to resist using his office to further his political aims?"

Posted by David Steven at 09:16 PM

Kerry's not impressed. "It makes you wonder whether all the administration's words about mending fences with our allies are just lip service," said US presidential failure, John Kerry.

"After Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz's repeated and serious miscalculations about the costs and risks America would face in Iraq , I don't believe he is the right person to lead the World Bank."

Posted by David Steven at 09:07 PM

Sachs not happy. Jeff Sachs - who might have fancied the job himself - is not happy at the Wolfowitz appointment...

""It's time for other candidates to come forward that have experience in development," he said.

"This is a position on which hundreds of millions of people depend for their lives," he said. "Let's have a proper leadership of professionalism."

Posted by David Steven at 09:00 PM

Extreme Treasury spin. The US Treasury Department spin-doctors have released a statement praising Wolfowitz to the rafters ("proven leadership skills and ... a passion for development"). And the statement outrageously finds a form of words which implies that other governments were consulted about the new Bank president.

It claims that "in considering candidates for this position, we consulted extensively with the Bank's Executive Board and Development Committee to come to a consensus on the essential qualifications of a World Bank leader as well as the timing of this selection". Careful readers will note that this is not by any means the same as a consultation on actual candidates which the US might think fits its criteria. As I reported earlier this week senior European officials on Monday confirmed they were completely in the dark about who the US Administration was considering.

Indeed some people I spoke to today think the US deliberately announced the Wolfowitz nomination at a time when most of the European EDs to the Bank were away in Brussels.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:08 PM

Arab reaction. Mohamed Al-Sayed Said of the Al-Ahram Centre For Political And Strategic Studies, Egypt said he expected Wolfowitz to bring "an ultra-right wing philosophy based on imposing a fully free market with no adequate concern for the poor and basically monetarist (policy) that has no taste for anything other than a very small state. One good thing about it is that he left the Pentagon."

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:02 PM

Ideology and analysis don't mix. If Wolfowitz is selected despite his controversial politics he will have a hard time convincing people that his economic projections are neutral. The World Bank and IMF frequently produce over-optimistic economic assessments. But Wolfowitz was in another league when he said just before the Iraq war that: "we are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon". The World Bank and UN analysis decided rather that Iraq requires about US$36 billion over four years.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:42 PM

France and Germany take their distance. Encouraging signs that at least some European governments are distancing themselves from the Wolfowitz nomination. German development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said "the enthusiasm in old Europe is not exactly overwhelming." French foreign minister Michel Barnier said: "it's a proposal. We shall examine it in the context of the personality of the person you mention and perhaps in view of other candidates."

The British government, however has made more positive noises. Foreign minister Jack Straw said "this is a nomination by the United States government. Paul Wolfowitz is very distinguished and experienced internationally and if his appointment is confirmed we look forward to working with him." Just two weeks ago Straw was strongly lobbying for Powell.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:31 PM

Wolfensohn backtracks. Two weeks ago outgoing Bank president James Wolfensohn was at pains to dispel rumours of a Wolfowitz appointment, implying strongly he would not be happy to hand over to the Deputy Defense Secretary. Now somebody seems to have leaned on Wolfensohn to change his tune. He commented: today: "[Wolfowitz] is a person of high intellect and broad experience in and out of government and he has many qualifications that would be critical to leading the bank". Faint, not full, praise I know. And Wolfensohn did continue: "I look forward for the decision of our board", as if he held out some hope that the latter might veto Wolfowitz.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:14 PM

Bush lobbying world leaders. President Bush acknowledged that he called Italian president Berlusconi earlier to advocate acceptance of Wolfowitz as World Bank president. In his White House press conference earlier he said "I appreciate world leaders taking my phone calls as I explain to them why I think Paul will be a strong president of the World Bank".

We are hoping that the increasingly active lobbying in the other direction may still have an effect. But the signals we get from various European capitals do not make us over-optimistic at this point. Reaction to this appointment, and how the Europeans organise themselves at the Bank board if Wolfowitz is appointed, are further acid tests of European foreign policy.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:54 PM

Have your say on the Wolfowitz choice. We are horrified that the US is seriously nominating Wolfowitz to run the World Bank. Wolfowitz does not have an interest or knowledge about poverty and development problems. With him at the helm the Bank will be seen more and more as a tool of US foreign policy, not a multilateral institution.

Express your views on the nomination of Wolfowitz as Bank president on our web forum.


Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:55 PM

Terse World Bank statement. The Bank has itself released a short statement that "The World Bank's Board has received a nomination from the United States for the Presidency of the Bank". It mentions "the Executive Directors of the Board, who are charged under the Bank's Articles of Agreement with the selection of the Bank's President, are in the process of consultations with the member countries they represent".

I called a Bank spokesperson who told me that there is no official deadline or timetable. With Wolfensohn's nomination 10 years ago it took 24 hours for the board to agree. This time it may take longer, but it is up to the board to determine its schedule.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 03:57 PM

Bush Confirmation. Bush has just confirmed in a press briefing at the White House that he has nominated Paul Wolfowitz for World Bank President. Bush's sales pitch was that Wolfowitz is a "compassionate decent man, commited to development, and a skilled diplomat". We strongly disagree and think that Wolfowitz would be a diplomatic disaster at the Bank.

European government officials are actively discussing among themselves how to react. We and many colleagues around the world are urging them to take action to block the candidacy of Wolfowitz just as the Americans blocked the European candidate for the IMF job in 2000.

Activists and parliamentarians in different countries are taking action to get their governments to reinforce this point. We hope the backbone of the various governments on the board does not need too much reinforcing.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 03:36 PM

Bush Announcement President George Bush is already making an announcement at the White House which is likely to contain Wolfowitz nomination as the next World Bank President. To access live coverage of the conference: click here.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 03:30 PM

Wolfowitz - further confirmation. Our e-mail is now being swamped by people in Washington confirming that it is to be Wolfowitz running the Bank. The information is coming from Bank staffmembers, Bank board advisors and European government officials. This is far beyond a mere rumour as it appears that Wolfowitz's resume was formally circulated to the Bank.

CNN, CBS and others are now carrying the story, too, as well as Reuters.

Confirmed by

Bloomberg - Bloomberg

The Guardian - The Guardian

Washington Post - Washington Post

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:55 PM

It's Wolfowitz (maybe). Reuters is running a story that Bush wants Wolfowitz for World Bank president - we hear confirmation from two sources! Developing...

Posted by David Steven at 02:44 PM

Power of public disapproval. Paul Wolfowitz and Carly Fiorina "have since then been dismissed as possibilities in part due to the poor public reception they received as potential presidents". This is according to a United Press International story carried by the Washington Times and others. This almost makes it sound as if there have been public hustings, televised debates and other ways for the public to understand the views and positions of candidates and give their responses. This is of course far from the truth.

In fact there is a game of spin and rumours, with nobody aware of who is on the US official shortlist, let alone able to comment. Indeed there is much suspicion, including on our web forum, that certain names are floated merely to act as decoys to distract attention from more likely candidates. Wolfowitz, Fiorina and Bono may well fall into that category.

This story was also picked up by the, Big News Network (Australia) and New Kerala.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:45 AM

LA Times still pro Bono. Having started the speculation about Bono for World Bank president the Los Angeles Times has editorialised again in his favour. It still thinks "he would have been a sound choice to lead the World Bank".

The paper, however, refuses to follow Bono in backing Powell as a replacement candidate.

It comments: "Powell is an impressive figure, and there is a precedent of a former high-profile Cabinet member — Vietnam War-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara — taking the World Bank job in part to make amends for being associated with U.S. policies that were deeply unpopular in much of the world".

The LA Times sides with us and many others when it says "the United States should rethink its traditional claim to the job".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:26 AM

Where is everyone? Some of the European Executive Directors to the Bank I met yesterday also expressed astonishment that there was not more of a fuss about the World Bank president selection. Where are the parliamentary questions, the constant stream of letters, the pickets outside the Treasury?

I responded that with this website, various statements and similar interventions and many press articles there has been consistent pressure from outside.

But the pressure has so far failed to grow as much as I would have hoped. The peace movement largely failed to respond when Wolfowitz's name was mentioned. The Parliamentarians Network on the World Bank has not uttered a word, despite efforts to encourage it. And pickets such as the "one horse races" organised in the UK and Ireland last year have not materialised.

Overall the Directors have a good point. Lots of people claim to care about the World Bank and have yet not lifted a finger at this key political moment.

But the Directors also have a responsibility to push the Americans much more strongly and strategically to open up the process, ideally by proposing one or more serious non-US candidates. It is not sufficient for the Europeans to adopt a wait and see attitude, hoping to muster consensus to block any candidate they find beyond the pale. But of course many of the Europeans are reluctant because they want to hold onto the IMF leader appointment.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:41 AM

The mushroom principle. At a meeting in Brussels yesterday a range of European Executive Directors to the World Bank expressed their frustration at the process of selecting the next Bank president. One of them told me that they "were in the blue". Another that this website is consistently much more up to date on the issue than they are sitting in Washington at bi-weekly board meetings.

They all expressed frustration that the US government's claims in early January that there would be an open and consultative process have amounted to nothing.

The European EDs argued that this year's selection process is woefully untransparent and disorganised compared to that for the IMF last year (which was wrapped up within two months).

In short the European representatives to the Bank felt they were being completely sidelined. As a former Swiss ED memorably complained in the Financial Times a few years ago they are suffering from application of the mushroom principle: "being kept in the dark and fed on sh*t".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:31 AM

Elvis has left the building. "Bono has called James Wolfensohn... 'the Elvis of economics'," writes Michael Ackley.

Ackley continutes: "This must be distressing to Alan Greenspan, who might have to settle for being economics' Buddy Holly or, perhaps, Jerry Lee Lewis".

Posted by David Steven at 06:57 PM

McPherson - not greedy, just wrong. Writing in the FT, John Dizard argues that the World Bank selection process shows the weakness at the heart of George Bush's international policy making.

He's glad that public mockery has driven Carly Fiorina and Paul Wolfowitz from the race, but lays into Peter McPherson with gusto.

Dizard met McPherson when he was working in Iraq. His performance, Dizard believes, while not motivated by greed, was abysmal.

"Mr McPherson told me he had deliberately bypassed the private Iraqi banking sector in setting up facilities to clear letters of credit for Iraqi government agencies, which has helped retard the rebuilding of the country’s financial sector.

"His team cancelled the debts among Iraqi ministries and state-owned companies, therefore rewarding the least efficient enterprises and punishing the most profitable and effective."

Dizard writes that McPherson got the job as payback from Dick Cheney - he got Cheney his first post at the White House.

"Apparently, the vice-president has never forgotten the favour. But there is no reason why the rest of the world should pick up the bill to pay it back."

We've also picked up lots of backchat about McPherson's performance in Iraq. If you know more, get in touch...

Posted by David Steven at 08:46 AM

Mallaby backs Dervis. Sebastian Mallaby, author of a widely-read recent book on the Bank, has backed Kemal Dervis for the Bank's top job. In his Washington Post column today Mallaby writes in favour of Dervis: "a World Bank vice president who went on to be Turkey's finance minister, is my favorite. Dervis is a charismatic, pro-Western Muslim economist who helped the United States by leading the reconstruction of Bosnia".

Mallaby comments that "proven public-sector leaders who understand finance and development are hard to come by" and studiously fails to lend support to any of the American candidates, many of which he savaged with his "desperation" article last week. He does hint that he would be keen on Robert Rubin, but recognises that he is clearly a non-starter for a Bush administration.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:51 AM

Bono praises Powell. Having ruled himself out of the race, Bono has given a boost to Colin Powell's candidacy. Bono said (Reuters): "I think Colin Powell would do an incredible job, but there's some great people on the list". The U2 singer also stressed: "it's a very important job. What we forget is, it's an area where decisions taken in Washington affect many, many more lives than people are conscious of".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:57 PM

Africa Commission urges selection reform. Tony Blair's Africa Commission has recommended reforms to the World Bank's governance and leadership selection. The Commission report states that "appointments of the heads of international institutions should be decided upon by open competition which looks for the best candidate rather than by traditions which limit these appointments by nationality."

I am not holding my breath for implementation of this point, however. The Africa Commission's composition of senior political figures from Europe, Africa and North America (including briefly rumoured World Bank presidential hopeful Nancy Kassebaum-Baker) would give the impression that this recommendation might carry weight. But the commissioners have been fiddling with their wording while the Bank is in danger of burning.

And Tony Blair's government signed up to an extremely similar policy statement in its Globalisation White Paper of 2000. This commented (p.100): "in all [international] institutions, the UK Government favours open and competitive processes for the selection of top management. This could include a definition of the competencies for the post, selection and search committees and a clear process for taking the final decision, in which competence would be put above considerations of nationality".

UK government action to date on this has unfortunately been very minimal.

The Africa Commission report also urges the Bank to focus more on Africa, and to reduce the number of conditions placed on poor countries. The Bretton Woods Project has produced further analysis of the report's findings on the World Bank and IMF, including innovative proposals for a new decision-making Council of political representatives of member countries.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:18 AM

Powell's a Jolie good fellow. The New York Daily News carries confirmation that Angelina Jolie is backing Colin Powell.

To prevent another media frenzy about a star heading the Bank, Jolie took care to confirm that she is not interested in the position herself. "I've got too many skeletons in my closet for politics," she joked. Fewer serious skeletons than some of other candidates, however, we think.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 12:29 PM

Card wants Snow. Libération says at least ten minutes of every Washington dinner party are spent guessing who will be the next World Bank president. It reminds correspondent Pascal Riche of a game described by 19th century French author Guy de Maupassant where people used to work out who would replace deceased academics. "Everyone makes their list. People challenge, discuss, calculate. There is nothing more fun, nothing, absolutely nothing."

On Riche's current list are: Fiorina, McPherson, Tobias and Snow. He suggests that Treasury Secretary Snow may be picked because Andrew Card - White House Chief of Staff and thus in charge of the Bank president selection process - wants Snow's job.

Worldbankpresident.org is also mentioned in the Libération article. We are flattered to realise that this humble blog is following in the tradition of Maupassant.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:38 AM

Bono halts own bandwagon. Not a great surprise, but Bono is not available for the World Bank president position.

The head of campaign group DATA. established by Bono campaign for him on debt, aid and trade issues, has confirmed this. Jamie Drummond, DATA's executive director, told Reuters: "I can't believe I need to say this, but there are no circumstances in which Bono would be nominated or accept the World Bank job".

DATA's Drummond continued that "Bono is flattered to be mentioned for such an important job but DATA does its best work from the outside."

Drummond would not be drawn on other specific candidates, but hoped that whoever wins the job "puts the interest of the poorest people in places like Africa first, and wins the trust of people around the world."

Good point. A pity then that Bono has already found what he is looking for and is not pursuing the Bank job.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:03 AM

Fiorina still in with chance. Two well-placed people I have just spoken to in Washington have confirmed that the administration is playing its cards very close to its chest on the Bank presidency. One said, however, that Wolfowitz rumours have died away. Another that "the latest rumour is McPherson is out of the running while Carly Fiorina is still in contention". They considered this the wrong way round.

Meanwhile Reuters has carried a story reporting that US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao is happy where she is. Chao was quoted as saying: ""I'm very honored by the talk but I'm very happy where I am."

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:27 PM

Balancing Bolton with Powell? The appointment of John Bolton as US ambassador to the United Nations has rung further alarm bells for those following the Bank president process. In the words of Helen Thomas "Bolton's style is to flaunt U.S. superpower military status and to lay down the law to other nations: Our way or the highway. A diplomat he is not". A similar person in charge of the World Bank's significant policy-making and development financing operations could be devastatating.

One official I spoke to just now felt that Bolton's appointment was disastrous, and "a sop to the right". But they were not convinced that the Bank appointment would follow the same pattern. They hoped that Bush might in fact balance out the UN appointment with a more acceptable one for the World Bank. Colin Powell perhaps.

This would certainly please many Bank staffers, and European governments. Indeed I understand some senior European politicians have recently been actively trying to persuade Powell to stand.

It's certainly a possible scenario, but appears optimistic at this point.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:35 PM

Diverse new names proposed. Two letters in today's Financial Times suggest new people for the World Bank president job. The first letter, from former World Bank director Venkatachar S. Raghavan, says the US government should look beyond: "business executives or discredited politicos". He proposes Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and an economist of international stature. Raghavan suggests this would be well-received by developing countries and Bank staff.

Another letter, from Louis Riggio, says the Bank does not need "a pure development specialist". He angles instead for "a top international banker or financial figure with strong exposure to the developing world". José Angel Gurria Treviño, the former Mexican finance and foreign minister; Henrique Meirelles, the current Brazilian Central Bank president; Pedro Malan, former Brazilian finance minister; Armínio Fraga, former Brazilian Central Bank president.

However Riggio demonstrates some confusion about the topic by ending his letter "any of these would also be excellent candidates to head the International Monetary Fund".

You can comment on these proposed candidates on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:52 AM

CNN Wolfowitz confusion. A piece on CNN.com quotes relevant experts praising Bono, but outlining the difficulties he would face in any transition to the Bank and putting his chances of getting the job at "zero".

Intriguingly part of article's sub-title reads "Wolfowitz re-emerges as a possible candidate". But readers will not find any further mention of Wolfowitz in the article. Sub-standard subbing it seems.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 12:09 PM

Angela Jolie news flash. Catwoman and UN goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie thinks Colin Powell is man enough for the job. She's attending a dinner with him this evening, and perhaps she'll persuade him to stand. Here's a picture or three of the happy couple...

Posted by David Steven at 09:58 AM

Slate explains. Slate sets out what it means to be World Bank president. "He travels the world, manages an army of 10,000 employees, and shakes lots and lots of hands. When outgoing president James Wolfensohn steps down at the end of May, he will have traveled to more than 120 countries over his two five-year terms".

"According to the bank's organization chart, the president reports to the board, which retains all authority to make decisions. But in practice, the bank's vague mandate and wide range of activities allow the president a degree of autonomy."

Daniel Engber, the author of the piece, outlines correctly that "by tradition, the president of the United States makes the choice. He selects an American citizen and submits the name to the executive board for its rubber-stamp approval". He does not outright condemn this outdated system, however.

And although he mentions Bono he does not comment on whether Bono or other rumoured candidates would be suitable to carry out the above functions.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:37 PM

Bursting Bono's bubble. A US student newspaper has a pot at Bono, considering him well-motivated and -informed on the issues, but not well-suited to the job.

Chuck Prokaska, writing in The Daily Illini, comments "many think that selecting Bono is an idea so crazy that it just might work". But "running the World Bank requires more than a big heart, crazy sunglasses and an Irish brogue. Bono has no formal education in economic policy-making - his simplistic rallying cry is that rich countries need to give poor countries more money".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 06:27 PM

The next Compaq? Carly Fiorina may have no development and little political experience, the Economist notes, but she has handled (or mishandled) a large merger.

"Ms Fiorina's reputation at HP was not unlike Mr Wolfensohn's at the Bank: a leader with a big vision who could not manage. Who knows? Maybe Ms Fiorina would push through a merger with the IMF."

Posted by David Steven at 02:32 PM

The heart says Bono. The media are going all gooey at the idea of Bono at the helm of the World Bank. John Snow probably meant to rule him out of the running in yesterday's comments to ABC - but he's set of a flurry of speculation that Bono's next gig will be in Washington...

Posted by David Steven at 01:42 PM

New candidate, French views. Le Monde confirms (French) that the World Bank president rumour-mill has picked up in recent days and that potential candidates' names are being actively tested out in different capitals. It adds a new one of its own sourced from none other than outgoing president James Wolfensohn.

Wolfensohn told Le Monde that if he had any say in the matter he would back Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska.

Hagel is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee and a board member of the International Republican Institute.

Le Monde says that Hagel's candidacy "would be welcomed in European diplomatic circles" as he is a moderate Republican who has has a bipartisan approach and has kept his distance from the war in Iraq. The European Institute presented the Transatlantic Leadership Award to Hagel in 2003 in reognition of his efforts to stand up for multilateralism.

Apparently, however, Hagel has presidential ambitions for 2008 which may make him less than keen to get entangled with the World Bank.

The French government told Le Monde that it would ensure that it would seek to ensure that the gains from recent years under Wolfensohn (education, health, dialogue with civil society) are maintained by the next boss and that the Bank does not simply become a grant-making institution for the poorest countries (a reference to John Taylor's well-known position).

As well as Hagel Le Monde has on its list John Snow, John Taylor, Christine Todd-Whitman, Ann Krueger, Carly Fiorina, Peter McPherson and Randall Tobias.

Babette Stern writes in Le Monde: "people are talking about nothing else in the corridors of the World Bank". And she kindly mentions us: "a website has even been established to exchange the latest gossip on the subject".

Worldbankpresident.org is keen to hear your views on Chuck Hagel, either by e-mail (contact@worldbankpresident.org) or on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 09:10 AM

Snow plans to keep job American. U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow emphasised yesterday to ABC News that the next World Bank president would be an American. He even bizarrely claimed that "I've had any number of calls from finance ministers from around the world saying they want it to be an American."

When asked about specific candidates he praised Bono and Fiorina in general terms. But he said "I think we're going to have to wait to reveal that next president of the World Bank for a little while."

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:39 AM

"Desperation" in Bank process. A Washington Post columnist has savaged the US approach to choosing a new World Bank president. Sebastian Mallaby, author of a recent book on the Bank, fears that 2005 may be as bad as 1986. This was "a low point in American economic diplomacy" when development novice Barber Conable was shoe-horned into the institution against his will and to the detriment of the Bank.

Mallaby comments that the rumours about Paul Wolfowitz and Carly Fiorina "look like a sign of desperation" and outlines why they should not do the job.

He suggests that Wolfowitz has most of what it takes to lead the World Bank. He is a good communicator, has experience in public-sector management; and he knows something about developing countries. "But his association with the Iraq war makes him, unfairly but undeniably, anathema to most World Bank shareholders".

Mallaby has asked a range of pro-Bush economists what they think of Fiorina's candidacy. They were apparently unanimous that: "the idea is preposterous. Fiorina was fired from the top job at Hewlett-Packard because she proved incapable of running a large organization. How could the Bush administration, which claims to respect the judgments of the marketplace, entrust her with the formidable challenge of running the bank's 10,000-strong bureaucracy?"

Mallaby finishes with a vivid metaphor: "naming a failed technology executive to run the world's premier development organization is like hiring a failed soccer player to coach the Redskins".

Posted by Alex Wilks at 08:16 AM

Lobbying and jostling. The Independent describes the intense jostling for position going on around the World Bank at the moment. It comments that President George Bush will soon make "one of the most important appointments of his second term when he names a new president of the World Bank, the flagship global institution of development".

It calls the rumoured candidates "an especially intriguing mix" and provides a run-down of their attributes.

Carly Fiorina: "No track record on development issues, and her defenestration from HP is hardly a plus on her CV."

Paul Wolfowitz: "Might be vetoed by the Europeans in protest at his role in the Iraq war. Not a development specialist".

John Taylor: "A top-flight macroeconomic theorist. But has lost bureaucratic turf battles within the Bush administration. He might be better suited to the IMF than the Bank".

Colin Powell: "Deeply respected around the world, and has taken a keen interest in development issues. The job is probably Powell's for the asking. Unfortunately, he's shown no sign of being interested".

Bono: "A passionate advocate of aid to poor countries, and led the 2000 Drop the Debt campaign. Would certainly keep the Bank in the headlines".

The paper fails to declare itself for any of the above and unaccountably fails to mention McPherson or Krueger.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:27 AM

Krueger push factor. Someone close to the World Bank's board tells me that Anne Krueger is still in contention. And that Krueger, currently the First Deputy IMF Managing Director, is less than popular with all her colleagues at the Fund. Indeed a number of them are apparently hoping that they can push her across 19th street to go and head the World Bank.

Krueger was formerly World Bank chief economist during some of the Reagan structural adjustment years. Krueger must still be considered unlikely, partly because of her age which would rule her out from serving two terms. But perhaps more because it is not clear why the Bush administration would want to reward Krueger with the plum World Bank position, having already placed her in the IMF's number 2 post during the first Bush term.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 05:29 PM

More networking than nous. The Times of London gives a run-down of the candidates for World Bank president who it believes can restore the intellectual rigour squandered by James Wolfensohn's habit of pandering to "every single-issue protest group in sight."

While Jim Leach is a "dullard" and Carly Fiorina a "showy" lightweight, Wolfowitz is "brilliant and still the favourite," and John Taylor - praised for opposing the International Finance Facility - and Kenneth Rogoff would offer solid management.

The paper tips its hat to Bill Clinton (looking for a job) and Gordon Brown (may be looking for a job) too.

"If this were a corporation," it notes, "there would by now be a shortlist of highly qualified candidates awaiting scrutiny by the board. By contrast, chief executives of the World Bank “emerge” in an opaque and politicised process that too often rewards networking at the expense of nous."

Posted by David Steven at 09:20 AM

Wolfensohn clarifies. The Bank yesterday released a statement to clarify Wolfensohn's remark that Wolfowitz is out of the Bank president selection race. The Bank issued a comment from Wolfensohn that: "I have no personal knowledge. I was simply referring to the Pentagon statement".

On a visit to Brussels to meet European Commission president Barroso, Wolfensohn said his successor should be passionate about fighting poverty and promoting human development, not just a good manager.

Asked whether Wolfowitz met the criteria, he joked: "I submitted the name of my son and I think they got it mixed it up" (Reuters).

It is not clear whether the Bank's clarification statement was made under pressure from the US government or what else might have motivated it.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 07:04 AM

Wolfowitz satire. Wolfowitz's rumoured nomination for the Bank top job has inspired a burst of satire. John Cavanagh, director of Washington-based progressive thinktank Institute for Policy Studies, has published an entertaining Top Ten Reasons Why Paul Wolfowitz Would Make a Good World Bank President. Meanwhile another commentator proposed Rumsfeld to head Amnesty International.

Cavanagh's top ten pro-Wolfowitz points include:
- "He can develop a pre-emptive poverty doctrine where the World Bank could invade countries that fail to make themselves safe for U.S. business, modeled on the U.S. pre-emptive war doctrine he helped craft".

- "With all his experience helping U.S. companies grab Iraq ’s oil profits, he's got just the right experience for doling out lucrative World Bank contracts to U.S. businesses".
- "Unlike the Treasury Department’s John Taylor, another leading candidate, at least Wolfowitz doesn't want to get rid of the institution he would head".

There has also been a lot of comment on Wolfowitz on the Guardian weblog. One wag commented: "Wolfowitz for the Bank? Next, we need Rumsfield as head of Amnesty International, Oily Cheny as responsible for halting global warming and implementing Kyoto, Ariel Sharon as Secretary General of the UN".

Some more sober points were made, too. On the positive side are comments about his promotion of democracy. One writer said he played "a key role in levering out President Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines once the people had turned against him". However, another writes "where was his love of democracy when he was backing Suharto and his 'strong and remarkable leadership' in Indonesia? Even when the US finally abandoned their support for Suharto the worst criticism Wolfowitz could manage was that he 'overstayed' as leader whilst still lauding his supposed achievements".

You can also have your say on Wolfowitz on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 04:38 PM

McPherson backed and keen. Peter McPherson is still definitely in with a strong chance of becoming next World Bank president. I was told yesterday by an impeccable source that McPherson "badly wants the job". And that he has powerful backing from within USAID, the official bilateral aid agency of the USA.

The same person at the Paris aid conference told me that this process is speeding up, with an announcement possible within the next two weeks.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 02:03 PM

Wolfowitz: bluff or believable? I asked a range of well-placed people yesterday what they thought of the Wolfowitz rumour. Views were mixed with at least some considering the Defense Department response to be football manager pyschology ("David Beckham is very happy at Manchester United").

People I spoke to included Wolfensohn and other senior figures from the Bank as well as African and rich country senior officials. They were all present at the (unproductive) Aid Effectiveness ministerial conference.

Many of the above said they feel very out of the loop of this decision-making and are frequently checking this site to keep in touch. To a man and woman they were all happy to talk but reluctant to be quoted.

Most people thought Wolfowitz would be a poor choice as his association with the US Iraq invasion would make it more impossible than ever for the Bank to appear neutral and multilateral.

One Bank official told me "I really hope not. The only good thing is it would make it an easy change for those of us who call the top boss 'Wolfman'. But I think a number of people would leave the Bank if Wolfowitz came in". This official - who has served in the Bank for many years - said he was not happy with any of the names on the current list.

A French official told me that they "would not like Wolfowitz at all" and that efforts to block him were very likely.

But could the White House have leaked Wolfowitz's name as a decoy? Encouraging debate about him may distract attention from other candidates and make them seem more reasonable. This is the plausible theory of Brian on our web forum.

Posted by Alex Wilks at 01:57 PM

Wolfowitz in, out, shake it all about. According to outgoing World Bank President, James Wolfensohn, Paul Wolfowitz is out of the running ("no longer part, I think, of the exercise, so I don't think there is any need to comment") - but Reuters finds a "Republican source" to disagree...

Fiorina said to be favourite, with Chao hanging on in there...

Posted by David Steven at 12:28 PM

London Times backs Bono. The Times is not keen on Taylor or Tobias (insufficient stature) or Fiorina (the job would be a reward for failure).

Perhaps surprisingly, the paper joins the Bono bandwagon: "Bono has international credibility, a keen understanding of development issues and, through his mega-earnings with U2, a handle on money."

Posted by David Steven at 02:05 PM

Better off at the Pentagon? The Guardian Newsblog has a link-rich rundown of news linking Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank presidency.

"Of course," Mark Tran writes, "the question arises as to whether Wolfowitz would really leave his Pentagon perch, where he wields much more influence than he would at the World Bank."

Posted by David Steven at 11:00 AM

Leach long shot. The NYT adds a "long shot" to its shortlist (Fiorina, Wolfowitz, Tobias, Taylor, McPherson) - Iowa Congressman, Jim Leach.

Leach is known for his work on HIV/AIDS and debt...

Posted by David Steven at 10:55 AM

Fiorina too. Carly Fiorina has joined Paul Wolfofitz as a "leading candidate" for World Bank President, according to the New York Times.

"Ms. Fiorina... carries far less political baggage than Mr. Wolfowitz and has a reputation for dynamic leadership," the paper reports. "As the head of a Fortune 500 company for six years, she gained executive experience that put her near the top of the list for the job. She would also add glamour as probably the only candidate famous enough to be widely known by her nickname - Carly."

Posted by David Steven at 10:45 AM

Wolfowitz touted. The FT drops a bombshell this morning - Paul Wolfowitz is now a leading candidate for World Bank president.

Wolfowitz would be a hugely controversial choice, with a Bush official admitting his appointment would have "enormous repercussions within the development community."

Tobias, Taylor and McPherson are also said to be on the shortlist, though the latter two are apparently no longer leading candidates...

Posted by David Steven at 10:11 AM


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