The Message is Finally Revealed

Sebastian Mallaby’s latest column talks about Mr. Wolfowitz finally finding his organizing theme at the World Bank; the new boss is going to be tough on corruption, and he's going to push this campaign beyond the confines of the Bank. Mallaby notes several examples of Mr. Wolfowitz walking the talk on corruption.

- held up $800 million in lending to Indian health projects
- frozen lending to Chad, whose government had reneged on a promise to spend its oil revenue on poverty reduction.
- canceled 14 road contracts in Bangladesh because of corrupt bidding.
- frozen five loans to Kenya because of corruption
- interrupted a project in Argentina that topped up the wages of poor workers
- postponed debt relief for Congo

The Bank with some 10,000 employees and over 1,200 PhD’s, including 31 vice presidents who earn the equivalent of more than $225,000 after taxes, won’t be an easy place to run;

When Paul Wolfowitz returned to the World Bank from a trip to Africa in June, he made a presentation to his staff. "I made the mistake of calling on the first questioner, somebody who was obviously even older than I am," recalls the 61-year-old but freshly minted World Bank president in an interview. "And he said, 'I've been around since 1972 and we've heard all this stuff before.'" ….

Regarding his staff skeptic, Mr. Wolfowitz says he replied, "I don't think so. I don't think you ever really heard African leaders talking about the essential need to combat corruption. I don't think you've seen African leaders, the way the president of Nigeria recently did, jailing the inspector general of police on corruption. I don't think you've seen things like the president of South Africa dismissing the deputy president because his financial adviser took a bribe, by the way, from a company from a developed country."

The problem seems to be as a veteran bank economist Mr. Lant Prichet explained; its highly trained, well-meaning professionals too often think they know the solutions. "They have too little doubt,'' he said.

Mr. Wolfowitz jokes, "I remember George Shultz was once asked how he would compare management in the private sector, public sector, and academics. In the private sector you better be careful what you ask for because people are going to go out and do it. . .. The government, you don't have to worry about that. You tell people do something and you check back two months later and nothing's happened. But in the academic world, you tell people to do something and they look at you strangely and they say, 'Who the heck do you think you are giving us orders?

Good luck to Mr. Wolfowitz. The aid community needs some one to walk the talk about corruption, an ‘industry’ worth $1 trillion a year.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on February 23, 2006 11:30 PM.

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