“Democratic Transition” at the World Bank.


Accused of nepotism, Dr. Paul Wolfowitz is slated to step down from the helm of the World Bank in the aftermath of an innocuous scandal regarding promotion and salary increases granted to his girlfriend, Shaha Riza. 

Prior to assuming the presidency of the World Bank, Wolfowitz  was Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Bush Junior Administration. He was the main Pentagon architect of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. He is considered as one of several key Neo-Conservatives, who contributed to shaping the foreign policy agenda of the Bush administration, including the “Global War on Terrorism”. 

Continuity: War Criminals at the Helm of the World Bank

A bona fide war criminal is being unfairly reprimanded for the lesser misdemeanor of promoting the career of his girl friend. 

Wolfowitz, 61 [now 63], and Riza, who’s said to be in her mid-fifties, are both divorced. They have declined to publicly discuss their relationship but share a desire to democratize the Middle East. Riza, an Oxford-educated British citizen, was born in Tunisia and grew up in Saudi Arabia. She’s known for her expertise on women’s rights and has been listed on the bank’s Web site as a media contact for Iraq reconstruction issues.(WP, 2005)

The scandal is a smokescreen. The real reasons of Wolfowitz’s demise are political. 

What this dismissal suggests is that lead Neo-Conservatives, despite their apparent political clout are often vulnerable and defenseless. They do not constitute the ultimate source of political power. Acting on behalf of the dominant corporate and financial elites, they are instruments or proxies, which can readily be replaced.    

Who is going to substitute for “Son of a Wolf” at the helm of the World Bank, while ensuring “continuity” in the dealings of an institution which plays a central role in shaping the economic contours of the New World Order. 

Since the inception of the inter-governmental body in 1946, all World Bank presidents have been American citizens. This apparently was part of a longstanding “tradition” to ensure proper “governance” and “representation” within the Washington based international financial institution (IFI). 

Appointing a “Non-American” to head the World Bank 

The Bush administration has said it will move “swiftly” to find a replacement for Paul Wolfowitz. 

There is nothing in the Articles of Agreement of the World Bank, however, which states that the President of  the World Bank should be headed by an American. Nor is there anything that says that the US president has the god-given right to make that appointment. 

While the World Bank is in theory a UN body, in practice it increasingly functions as an appendage of the US Government, with extensive ties to the Wall Street financial establishment:  

“Though formally affiliated to the United Nations, the World Bank is not accountable to the UN General Assembly and Security Council. The World Bank’s [more than] 180 member nations are its shareholders”. (Michel Chossudovsky, The World Bank, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2002-2006).

The shareholders are represented in the Bank’s Board of Governors.  The governors are finance ministers, Central Bank governors and senior government officials appointed by the member countries. From a legal standpoint, the appointment of the World Bank president rests with the Board of Governors, in liaison with the Bank’s Executive Board composed of 24 Executive directors. 

Founded in 1944 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire to establish a new post-war international economic system, the World Bank, began its operations in June 1946. The US is the largest shareholder of the World Bank and has consequently exerted its role as major shareholder in the appointment of the institution’s president.  

But there is good news. The longstanding practice of appointing an American to the helm of the World Bank is now being seriously re-evaluated by the Bush administration. 

Tony Blair’s candidacy is “being discussed”

There is a possibility, yet to be confirmed, that the next president of the World Bank could be a high-flying British subject, citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, another notorious war criminal, who visibly, despite his affinities, is not a US citizen, is being considered for the position of World Bank President.  

“Rumours have circulated in past days that outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a loyal Bush ally who made a farewell trip to the White House this week, could be tapped for the post.”

Tony Blair, Non-American candidate for the World Bank Presidency

But even in the case where a Brit were to be appointed to lead the World Bank, the sitting US President would take precedence over Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The World Bank’s Board of Governors, which has also been disqualified by the White House, would eventually be called upon to rubber-stamp the appointment dictated by Washington.  

HM meets NASA employees, 8 May 2007

“Potentially Sure”

The White House was crystal clear on this issue. “Asked if Mr Bush might nominate someone who was not a US national, [White House spokesman] Mr Fratto said: “potentially, sure.” 

Tony Blair’s candidacy is “being discussed”:  “the Bank chief has traditionally been an American, but this time there could be an exception…”

The only apparent downside is that Blair has no prior experience in the art of poverty alleviation, when compared with his predecessor Paul Wolfowitz. In the words of Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, “it would be good for the institution at this juncture if they had somebody who was an economist who really understood what development is”. On the upbeat positive side, with Tony Blair at the helm of the World Bank, continuity in the “war and globalization” agenda would be assured: “Blair has clearly been a political leader that has the kinds of connections that one needs, that would be useful as head of the institution,…”.

Other foreign nationals, among the various candidates for Wolfwitz’s position, include Ashraf Ghani, chairman of Kabul University, who is said to be “a likely option if President Bush decides to break with tradition and appoint a non-American.”  

Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani is among the front-runners in the World Bank presidential race. He is a former World Bank official who contributed to “helping rebuild the Afghan economy” in the wake of the US-NATO led invasion.  The World Bank’s official  mission is “global poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards” and Ghani’s achievements in poverty reduction are indisputable, given the “steady progress” observed in Afghanistan since the demise of the Taliban government in 2001. 

Ashraf Ghani returned to Afghanistan in October 2001, together with US-NATO forces. He occupied the position of Finance Minister in the US-installed puppet regime of Hamid Kharzai. His main mandate, while at the helm of the Afghan Finance Ministry, was to “focus on poverty eradication through the creation of wealth”.  

Afghanistan’s “Destruction and Post-war Reconstruction” is the chosen “Model”  of the international community for the developing World. According to the World Bank’s country director Alastair McKechnie, impoverished war-torn Afghanistan under NATO occupation is a promising new frontier of the global free market: “The Afghan economy [will] continue to grow at rapid rates, which in turn will lead to considerable improvements in people’s lives.” (See World Bank Report on Afghanistan)

Among the names mentioned as other possible candidates are former Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, current Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmit, Governor of the Central Bank of Israel and former Deputy Managing director of the IMF Stanley Fischer. 

“Poverty Fighting” Institution

“The planet’s biggest development organization [World Bank] is under pressure to end the tradition whereby the poverty-fighting bank [World Bank] is always led by an American”. 

The timely appointment of Tony Blair, a “non-American” war criminal, to replace Wolfowitz, were it to be carried out, should, nonetheless, be viewed in a positive light. (See Report).  Civil society organizations in developing nations, which have waged a longstanding battle for meaningful reform of the Bretton Woods institutions, have an opportunity to rejoice. If war criminal Tony Blair were to be ordained by the White House to lead the “poverty-fighting” International Financial Institution, the age old practice of imposing a US citizen as head of the Bank will be forever be broken. 

Now isn’t that a mark of meaningful progress? The US president can now appoint whoever he pleases, an American or a non-American. 

“Democratic transition” at the Bretton Woods institutions?  

The Washington based inter-governmental body known as the World Bank and its sister organization the International Monetary Fund (IMF) –which incidentally has always been headed by a Western European in a power-sharing arrangement with the US– would become “more representative” and “democratic”. 

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About the author:

Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (emeritus) at the University of Ottawa, Founder and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, Editor of Global Research.  He has taught as visiting professor in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Latin America. He has served as economic adviser to governments of developing countries and has acted as a consultant for several international organizations. He is the author of eleven books including The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003), America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005), The Global Economic Crisis, The Great Depression of the Twenty-first Century (2009) (Editor), Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War (2011), The Globalization of War, America's Long War against Humanity (2015). He is a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. In 2014, he was awarded the Gold Medal for Merit of the Republic of Serbia for his writings on NATO's war of aggression against Yugoslavia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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