Wolfowitz and the World Bank at Bay

Paul Wolfowitz's resignation from the World Bank would not be enough to restore credibility. What needs to be changed is the archaic process by which the US unilaterally chooses the Bank's leader.

Will World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz’s troubles finally catalyze real change at the World Bank? Will there finally be an end to the archaic practice by which the President of the United States unilaterally appoints the head of the world’s most important development agency?

Facing an extraordinary rebuke from the Bank’s ministerial oversight committee and open revolt from his professional staff, Wolfowitz has faint hope of limping through the last three years of his term. The immediate uproar is over the exceedingly generous pay and promotion package that Wolfowitz awarded in 2005 to his girlfriend as compensation for leaving the Bank to pave the way for his arrival. At a time when the Bank has been emphasizing high governance standards as the key to development, the recent revelation of that arrangement’s details have dealt a serious blow to the Bank’s credibility.

But even if Wolfowitz is eventually forced to resign, nothing will be gained if US President George W. Bush is allowed summarily to choose his replacement, as US Presidents have been doing ever since the Bank was founded after World War II. Instead, the Bank’s head should be chosen in an open and transparent process that aims to select the best-qualified candidate, whether from the US, Europe, or the developing world.

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