Questions for Robert Zoellick

Paul Wolfowitz’s resignation from the World Bank solved one problem, but brought another to light. When Wolfowitz’s name was first mentioned as a candidate to lead the world’s premier development bank, the idea that the architect of America’s failure in Iraq would be so rewarded was met by incredulity. But President George W. Bush had, from the beginning of his administration, sought to undermine multilateral institutions and agreements. Wolfowitz’s nomination seemed to be part of that effort.

Should Bush, a lame duck president with little support at home and less abroad, now be allowed to appoint the next World Bank president? Bush has already demonstrated his lack of judgment. Why give him another chance?

The arguments against the “old boy” system – by which the United States appoints the head of the World Bank and Europe the head of the IMF – are especially compelling today How effective can the Bank be in promoting good governance and fighting corruption if its president is chosen in a process that demonstrates flaws in its own governance? How credible will an anti-corruption message be when delivered by an appointee of what is considered one of the most corrupt and incompetent administrations in US history?

Interestingly, as several heads of US Congressional committees have pointed out, it is in America’s interest for the Bank to be led by the most qualified person, selected in an open and transparent process, regardless of nationality, gender, or race. This requires a change in how its president is chosen, and, at Congressional hearings on the World Bank – the first in 13 years – I, like everyone who testified, called for this key reform.