Last fall in a development theory seminar one of my classmates commented on Robert McNamara’s tenure as the President of the World Bank. “So what,” they said, “first you fuck up a war, and then you get to be president of the World Bank?”
And alas there seems to be a trend developing.
If approved by the bank’s board, Wolfowitz will assume control of the World Bank and its $20 billion a year loan programs. The World Bank often plays an influential role in shaping the policies of developing nations as the result of conditions it attaches to loan money under its control.
Joseph Stiglitz, American Nobel laureate, former chief economist to the World Bank and influential economic thinker, is fighting back.
In an exclusive interview, [Stiglitz] said: “The World Bank will once again become a hate figure. This could bring street protests and violence across the developing world.” He described President Bush’s determination to appoint his deputy defense secretary to the important post as “either an act of provocation or an act so insensitive as to look like provocation”.
The choice of Wolfowitz has also created a dilemma for Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. They fear he would stand in the way of their high-profile initiative to alleviate African debt and poverty. However, they are reluctant to spark a dispute with the White House by going public with their concerns. “This is a big problem for us,” said an official close to the chancellor. “We are still working out what to do.”
Stiglitz said Wolfowitz was unsuitable in part because the US war in Iraq remains profoundly unpopular in many of the territories where the World Bank works. But he also complained that Wolfowitz has the wrong skills.
“He has no training or experience in economic development or financial markets,” Stiglitz said. The Bank was the most important institution addressing poverty, he said. “We need someone in charge who knows. . . development.”
I have never been a fan of the World Bank for reasons much to complex to go into at the moment. But given its influence on world development policies I’d much prefer Paul Wolfowitz NOT be the President.
On a lighter note, Jon Stewart’s commentary on the issue is pretty damn funny.