Pentagon Hawk Up to His Old Tricks; World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Was a Controversial Appointment. and He Remains Controversial in Office. Lesley Wroughton Reports

The Birmingham Post (England), February 6, 2006 | Go to article overview
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Pentagon Hawk Up to His Old Tricks; World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Was a Controversial Appointment. and He Remains Controversial in Office. Lesley Wroughton Reports


Byline: Lesley Wroughton

Paul Wolfowitz is sending shock waves through the World Bank as he begins exerting his influence - starting with a crackdown on corruption - less than a year after arriving from the Pentagon with a reputation as a neo-conservative ideologue.

Mr Wolfowitz's nomination by President George W Bush to head the world's largest development lender was controversial from the start because of his role as an architect of the Iraq war.

Eight months into his tenure, critics, including veteran bank officials who have left in an exodus of managers, say Mr Wolfowitz has centralised his authority through an inner circle of advisors mostly from the Pentagon and White House.

They cite two recent appointments - both American Republicans - to key positions. Suzanne Rich Fol-som became director of Institutional Integrity, the bank's anti-corruption unit, and Kevin Kellems, a former adviser to US Vice-President Dick Cheney, was named to the strategic advisory post of director of external relations.

A recent letter by the World Bank Staff Association questioned the appointments, and the bank's 24-member board of member nations has urged Mr Wolfowitz to step up the search to fill senior management positions.

The bank's number two position of managing director has been vacant since December when Shengman Zhang, the bank's operations chief, left for the private sector, causing anxiety over who will fill his post.

In a recent interview, Mr Wolfowitz said he had launched a global search to fill the post, opening a traditionally closed decision-making process that member countries in the developing world have long complained about.

And on November 29, Mr Wolfowitz appointed a staff committee led by Graeme Wheeler, a former New Zealand treasury official and the bank's treasurer, to look for candidates to the position. Mr Wheeler, widely respected in the bank, is also acting managing director.

Mr Wolfowitz's predecessor, James Wolfensohn, also had a volatile first year of friction with senior managers and staff as he tried to reform the institution.

Analysts who have followed his career say Mr Wolfowitz has a history of forcing unpopular ideas and strategies on resistant audiences.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute research group - which has close ties to the Pentagon - said: "He has always taken the role of a controversial visionary whose job is to articulate a new path forward to people who don't want hear it.

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Pentagon Hawk Up to His Old Tricks; World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz Was a Controversial Appointment. and He Remains Controversial in Office. Lesley Wroughton Reports
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