March 16, 2005

Wolfowitz for World Bank? Aaargh!

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 5:53 pm

Wolfowitz? Wolfowitz? The World Bank, led by one of the biggest proponents of the neo-con preemptive military strategy and war in Iraq? The World Bank, which under James Wolfensohn has been focused on alleviating global poverty, now returning to pouring huge amounts of money in big infrastructure projects like dams and bridges? I don’t know what to say.

From Jeffrey Sachs, advocate for global poverty relief and author of the just released The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, as quoted by Bloomberg:

“It’s a very surprising and, in many ways, inappropriate nomination,” said Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University professor in New York and a United Nations adviser. “We need an individual with international experience in the fight against poverty and global trust. Mr. Wolfowitz does not fit those criteria.”

Also from the same article:

Under Wolfowitz, the Bush administration may now try to narrow the scope of the World Bank, returning the international lending institution to its roots of primarily financing large infrastructure projects and limiting the practice of handing out zero-interest loans, Meltzer said.

Since Bush took office in 2001, his administration has clashed with Wolfensohn over the role of the World Bank in Iraq and urged his institution to provide more aid in the form of grants rather than loans. The administration wanted a program where assistance was tied to results in areas such as education and health.

Wolfensohn, during his 10 years in office, cut by 40 percent financing for dams, bridges and infrastructure projects, and shifted that money to programs focused on reducing climate change and promoting faith-based initiatives.

From the Financial Times:

Mr Wolfowitz was among prominent members of the administration who engaged in a campaign two years ago to assure Americans that the financial costs of invading Iraq would be slight. These assurances were delivered against expert advice.

“There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be US taxpayer money, and it starts with the assets of the Iraqi people,” Mr Wolfowitz told a House of Representatives hearing on March 27 2003.

“On a rough recollection, the oil revenues of that country could bring between $50bn and $100bn over the course of the next two or three years,” he said. “We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.”

In the two years since the invasion, Iraq’s oil revenues have totalled $25bn (€18.6bn, £13bn), despite soaring world prices. The cost of the war and reconstruction has exceeded $200bn so far.

The appointment will also raise questions about development credentials.

While Mr Wolfowitz’s career included a stint as ambassador to Indonesia, his focus has long been on military affairs and he is not seen as an expert on development issues or international finance.

Oxfam, the aid agency, said: “It is vital that whoever becomes the new World Bank president ensures that the Bank is focused on reducing poverty.”

Some non-governmental groups fear Mr Wolfowitz will have a different focus, seeking to enlist the bank in the larger project of building US security by spreading democracy. “There will be concern about the possibility of introducing the war on terror into the projects and policies of the World Bank,” said Manish Bapna, executive-director of the Bank Information Center.

Mr Wolfowitz has said on more than one occasion that he believes development is vital to winning the war on terrorism. In a speech at the Brookings Institution in 2002, he said: “The hundreds of millions of Muslims who aspire to modernity, freedom and prosperity are, in reality, themselves on the front line of the struggle against terrorism”

I just don’t know what to say.

Update: From Andy Borowitz March 17 (sorry, no permalink):

Elsewhere, moments after President Bush nominated him to head up the World Bank, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz accused the International Monetary Fund of possessing weapons of mass destruction and said he would lead a coalition of other banks to invade it.

Update: From the Los Angeles Times:

What’s next, Donald Rumsfeld being shipped off to run UNICEF?

Someone in the White House’s human resources department is having too much fun. First, John Bolton, a bona fide skeptic when it comes to things like diplomacy and treaties, was nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to that den of multilateralism, the United Nations. Now President Bush has nominated Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of Defense and one of the intellectual authors of the Iraq war, to lead the World Bank. And we thought we were being provocative when we nominated Bono, the rock star, for the same job.

2 Comments

  1. Hmm…”inappropriate” has got to be the understatement of the year. What amazes me (though I shouldn’t be anymore) is how Bush can go to Europe and talk all conciliatory and then nominate someone like Wolfowitz. Like hugging someone and then giving them the finger.

    Comment by Michelle — March 17, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  2. In the pastoral counseling world we call this a double-bind. Similar to a mother saying “I love you, go away” in the same breath. The idea that rhetoric doesn’t match the actions is nothing new in the political arena, and this is just another instance of someone talking out of both sides of his mouth…

    grace and peace

    Comment by Jason — March 17, 2005 @ 8:25 am

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