Loosen America’s Grip on the World Bank

Nations call for Wolfowitz and the U.S. to step aside.

The World Bank needs a new leader, said Beethoven Herrera Valencia in Colombia's Portafolio. Paul Wolfowitz, the Pentagon architect of the Iraq war who became president of the bank two years ago, has never commanded the respect of the bank's employees, much less its clients. The scandal about how he finagled his girlfriend a high-paying job is a perfectly good excuse to get rid of him, but it's hardly his only sin. As soon as Wolfowitz took over, he set about canceling loans to countries he deemed insufficiently efficient'”without consulting bank officials who had spent years working with those countries. He ruthlessly cracked down on his staff over such petty issues as personal phone calls. And he offended Muslim countries when he was caught on film wandering around an Istanbul mosque with 'œholes in his socks'”and this from a man who rakes in easily $400,000 a year!'

Simply firing Wolfowitz won't be enough, said Singapore's Business Times in an editorial. That's because according to tradition, whoever replaces him will simply be another Bush appointee. The gentlemen's agreement that created the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Bretton Woods, N.H., in 1944, gave the bank presidency to the Americans and the IMF directorship to the Europeans. But the old-fashioned, paternalistic arrangement has lost its charm. 'œThe emerging economies, especially in Asia, should challenge this division of spoils between the Americans and the Europeans, and demand consideration of a non-American for the presidency of the bank.'

The U.S. doesn't even give that much money to the World Bank, said Pakistan's Nation. Its total funding of international development is a mere 0.15 percent of its GNP, the lowest among donor nations. It has only 16 percent of the bank's votes, yet is allowed to dominate decision-making. 'œHow can the bank espouse democracy at the global level when its governance is far from democratic itself?' It is only when the World Bank becomes open and transparent that it can 'œmove from being an institution much hated in the developing world to being the engine of economic growth and prosperity that it was originally envisioned to be.'

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Johann Hari


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