Tuesday, May 08, 2007

No respite for Wolfowitz

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is hanging on grimly to his job, thanks to the White House's support but the pressure is mounting by the day. The panel investigating complaints that Wolfowitz helped secure a special deal for his Lebanese girl-friend at the Bank has sent a copy of its findings to Wolfowitz. A top aide of Wolfowitz 's at the Bank has resigned saying, “In the current environment sur­rounding the leadership of the World Bank group, it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution.”

On top of it all, there comes the disclosure that Wolfowitz's closest aide was " involved in crafting an apparently misleading public statement on the Shaha Riza secondment for dissemination by World Bank spokespeople on an anonymous basis." (FT, May 8).

Wolfowitz has been rough with the Bank's staff. That's okay if you are squeaky clean yourself. If you are not, the insiders will get back you at the first opportunity. Happens in organisations all the time.

Writing with characteristic verve in FT, Joseph Stiglitz says that the central problem to be fixed is not just breach of ethics or procedures, important as these are. It's the process of selecting the top man for the Bank itself.

There is an old expression that fish rot from the head. So, too, good governance starts from how the head is chosen. Restoring confidence in the bank will require finally addressing the way in which its president is selected. Since the inception of the World Bank, it has been in effect an appointment by the US president, without even the vetting of the US Senate to which US officials at home are subjected. In this case, President George W. Bush sealed Mr Wolfowitz’s appointment with a few phone calls to friends, such as Tony Blair, UK prime minister. The development and finance ministers who should have been intimately involved in the decision-making were left to ratify what was essentially a done deal and the bank’s board members then ratified the deals made in the capitals.....

All of us support anti-corruption and good governance efforts, but they need to be accompanied by good-faith processes. Good governance in a democratic, multilateral institution starts from choosing the best individual, regardless of nationality, race, gender, or ethnicity. There may be honest differences of opinion about the essential, or at least desirable, characteristics. But surely the list would include a command of development economics, political experience and demonstrated managerial expertise in running a large multilateral organisation. In short, characteristics that are likely to have earned the respect of the bank’s multiple constituencies: its staff, the countries receiving assistance, the countries contributing assistance and the non-governmental organisations that have appealed to the world’s moral conscience concerning the need for foreign assistance. It may not be necessary that the head come from the developing world, but certainly someone from the developing world has a natural advantage in understanding the problems that they confront.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are becoming a prolific blogger - read your blogs regularly. Sandeep