Monday, April 23, 2007

Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank

A few people have asked me what I think about what's been happening at the World Bank. When the story first broke, I was quite disappointed given the facts that were being disseminated given Wolfowitz's strong anti-corruption push. I was though somewhat skeptical given the number of people who have it in for the guy who seemed to advocate such radical ideas as accountability and good governance. The media seemed entirely complicit and continues to be - pushing the story that Wolfowitz intervened, giving his girlfriend a nearly 50% raise.

It turns out that he was setup:

The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz's ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.

Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz's anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.

The documents tell a very different story--one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren't trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.
On the other hand, another man who I respect greatly given his books, William Easterly faults Wolfowitz for other issues entirely. I can't say that I've followed what's been happening at the World Bank beyond knowing that Wolfowitz has been challenging the status quo. While Easterly makes a good argument that his approach has lacked consistency and a focus on simplicity, I wonder if the effect of decentralizing what he describes as "the world's largest repository of development knowledge and experience", would help to develop more local organizations in a better position to fight poverty than the large behemoth the World Bank has become. Further, in carrying forward his comparison to the Iraq war, I'm not sure that Paul Wolfowitz's departure is the message to send to nations who have been dead set against even the idea that the institution requires any sort of any reform.

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