Friday, June 01, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The World Bank's fresh start

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The World Bank's fresh start
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: May 31, 2007

Think how much better it would have been if President George W. Bush had simply named Robert Zoellick to lead the World Bank two years ago instead of putting the bank through the embarrassing Paul Wolfowitz ordeal.

Now that Zoellick - far more qualified both in experience and temperament - has been nominated for the job, we hope that he will be quickly confirmed so that the bank's staff can refocus its attention on the urgent jobs of combating poverty, promoting development and encouraging good governance.

We also hope that Zoellick will not shy away from the important challenge of fighting corruption, a campaign that Wolfowitz embraced but then undermined through his own ethical obtuseness, in arranging a transfer and extraordinary pay raise for his companion. Good causes should not fall victim to bad appointments.

Zoellick is just about everything Wolfowitz was not. He is an able diplomat; experienced and interested in the details of development, trade and governance; and respected in the many countries he has dealt with in his long career as a top State Department official and as America's top trade negotiator.

Clientitis and outright corruption have historically been real problems at the bank - too many loans have been approved for no better reason than to keep the borrowing government happy and too few questions asked about how the bank's money has actually been used. The bank lends some $23 billion a year to poor countries, and is currently trying to raise $30 billion to finance new loans to the poorest among them. It cannot go on asking taxpayers in the developed world to underwrite its activities without demanding accountability for how its money is used.

Billions of the world's neediest people live in countries too poor and too undeveloped to have access to commercial lending at market rates. Globalization cannot succeed if these countries continue to be left behind. Other countries that have managed to raise average incomes need the technical and managerial expertise the bank can provide. Two precious years have been largely wasted. Zoellick cannot get to work soon enough.


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