Wolfowitz's soft escape infuriates World Bank critics

By staff writers
May 18, 2007

Critics of the World Bank and members of its own staff association, who want to see the global loans organisation help rather than hinder the needs of the poorest, have reacted with anger to the news that controversial WB chief Paul Wolfowitz will leave at the end of next month with the official blessing of the Bank's Board.

The announcement of Mr Wolfowitz's departure was made last night (17 May 2007) following a huge and lengthy furore over his role in seeking preferment and significant financial advantage for an ex-employee who is his partner.

The actions of the World Bank head were in flagrant violation of its own rules, critics pointed out. They also undermined the struggle against corruption across the world, when a senior figure at the head of a major mulilateral institution was seen to be using his role in such a flagrantly self-interested way.

But Mr Wolfowitz, a former Bush administration hawk, and co-architect of the Iraq war policy, strongly denied any inappropriate behaviour or wrong-doing, ins pite of mounting evidence.

Several days ago it became clear that his future position was untenable. The face-saving solution approved officially by the Bank's board was to allow him to resign in June, with a note saying that they recognised that head acted with integrity.

But Alison Cave, who chairs the staff association at the World Bank, reacted with fury to this outcome. She told BBC Radio 4 and other news outlets this morning that Mr Wolfowitz had demeaned the institution, insulted the staff, and set back the cause of development and anti-corruption by his actions.

Global development analysts say that there could be at least one positive outcome from the messy situation, however. It clearly highlights that failures of governance are not the exclusive preserve of African and other developing nations, as those who try to play down debt abolition, fairer aid and just trade agendas often like to claim.

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