Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is Zoellick the Right Man for the World Bank Job?

I'm not so sure. The New York Times reports this morning what I heard yesterday on NPR, that President Bush will nominate Robert Zoellick as President of the World Bank to succeed Paul Wolfowitz.
"The selection of Mr. Zoellick caught the bank board by surprise. The board, which under bank bylaws elects the president, met in the day and in the evening issued criteria for the new president; it said nominations would be accepted before June 15, with a choice made by June 30.

Administration officials expressed confidence that the board members would be guided by finance and development ministries from their home countries and would quickly ratify Mr. Bush’s choice. Nevertheless, bank officials expected some lingering unease over the way the United States treated the board a kind of an afterthought."
My sense is that Zoellick, while respected (far moreso outside the Administration than Wolfowitz) and qualified, may be (or may be perceived to be) too close to the Bush regime to be accepted by the skeptical Executive Board of the Bank. This was, I believe, at the heart of the problem with Wolfowitz--no one trusted him because of his ties to Bush. If the goal is to strengthen the World Bank, then a Bush insider isn't going to be able to do it. So that tells me Bush is continuing his goal of undermining multi-lateralism and I hope the Bank's Board holds firm. I expect Zoellick to be confirmed, but I hope in some fashion Bush is made to commit to the Bank's mission.


Unknown said...

When I was off being an evil Bush administration speech writer, It was Zoellick that I worked for. He is a seasoned diplomat to the core. I think he should have been appointed to the World Bank instead of Wolfowitz in the first place.

Give the bank board some time to react. My understanding is that Zoellick is rather widely respected. He's had very good working relationships with Europe in particular where much of the World Bank power outside of North America lies.

Unknown said...

I agree that Zoellick would have been a much better choice in the first place, hands down. And I've got nothing against Zoellick personally or what he's accomplished in the trade arena. My reservations are based on my own knowledge as an ex-World Bank staffer and now sometime-consultant, as well as a student of international development policy. The U.S. interferes too much in the World Bank and that's a big part of why the rest of the world gets mixed messages from the Bank. I'm happy to "wait and see" (no choice, eh?) and I hope Zoellick will exercise his independence, but I'd still rather have someone from outside the administration. Still, a big improvement, so I guess I should be happy.