Saturday, May 19, 2007

The battle for Wolfowitz's replacement looms.

The importance of power in appointing World Bank and International Monetary Fund presidents is transparent. No drawing veils over who really determines things through accountability to third world countries, often the clients. No trappings of democracy involved just the unvarnished appointing by fiat by two big powers the US and Europe. Even the tradition is changed the underlying reality will remain.

White House set for battle over Wolfowitz successor

Washington: A day after Paul Wolfowitz resigned, a fresh battle loomed over how and if the United States should pick his successor.

The World Bank chief's resignation on Thursday was forced by his handling of a high-paying promotion for his companion Shaha Riza that prompted an uprising among staff and bank member countries, some of them long-standing critics.

The international community expressed relief yesterday at Wolfowitz's decision to step down at the end of June but the move also prompted calls for a change in the way the top job is assigned.

In Berlin, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck welcomed the end to the long-running row. "We must re-establish the reputation and the working capacity of the World Bank as quickly as possible," he said.

Washington said it hoped to announce Wolfowitz's successor soon, following the tradition that the United States nominates the World Bank chief while Europe names that of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he would help Bush identify a nominee after consultations with other World Bank member countries. However, he made clear it would be an American.

"I see no reason why this should change and I see every reason why it's important that the World Bank should continue to be run by an American," Paulson said.

But Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Bert Koenders told Radio 1 news: "We live in very different times from 1945 when this was agreed upon - now there are new powers in this world who also want their voice heard. The Wolfowitz affair makes clear that quality should be the foremost criterion for finding a successor."

International development agency Oxfam called for the next president to be "appointed based on merit through an open accountable process," a call echoed by anti-poverty agency ActionAid.

Wolfowitz's decision also failed to quell staff anger. Senior bank managers urged staff yesterday to focus on the bank's mission of fighting poverty.

The World Bank board began meeting yesterday to discuss leadership issues, including how a new bank president should be chosen and whether an interim leader should be appointed to take over after Wolfowitz departs and before a new head of the bank is named.

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