World Bank Chief with a History of Defending US Interests ; Robert Zoellick Has Strong Ties to Neo-Cons, the White House and Big Business. Stephen Foley Reports on the New Man at the World Bank ++ Business Profile
Foley, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)
The bloody ousting of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank had threatened to unleash a long period of internecine strife at an organisation that, when not distracted by its own navel, is one of the most important tools the international community has to fight world poverty.
It was hard to be optimistic. On the one hand, the US was insistent on maintaining its historic right to pick the president, despite its unhappy recent experience. On the other, the Bank's other 184 members were restive about the Bush administration agenda to tie World Bank hand-outs to an anticorruption agenda.
And then, the US found the right man. That man is Robert Zoellick.
Mr Zoellick is a former US trade representative and long- standing ally of George W Bush, most recently serving as deputy to the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and currently working back in the private sector as a sort of global ambassador for Goldman Sachs. With his neatly clipped moustache, the 53-year-old Harvard Law School graduate cuts an eccentric figure, but his sharp-minded negotiating skills have won him respect across the world, particularly while he held the trade brief from 2001 to 2005.
Pascal Lamy, the former EU trade commissioner, with whom he was able to straighten out a dispute over banana tariffs, praised his "ability as a strategist, as one who can broker compromise and as one who has profound interests in the concerns of developing countries". One by one, member countries have endorsed his appointment to the World Bank, which will be ratified by the time Mr Wolfowitz departs on 30 June. Even countries such as Australia, which initially demanded an end to the US power of nominating the president, have fallen in behind Mr Zoellick in recent days.
Of German ancestry, Mr Zoellick was born in Naperville, Illinois, and worked first as a lawyer in Washington, before sidestepping into politics and, when the Republicans have been out of power, into the private sector. He has served on boards at Fannie Mae, the government-backed mortgage lending house, and briefly at Enron, the defunct energy company whose executives had links to the Bush family. Unhappy at being only number two in the State Department, he moved last year to Goldman Sachs, the giant investment bank, which at times appears to run an exchange programme with Western governments and international organisations. Mr Zoellick had previously been an informal adviser and he returned to the bank after he was pipped to the post of Treasury secretary by Goldman's chief executive, Hank Paulson - who just a year later was instrumental in recommending Mr Zoellick for the World Bank job. As head of international affairs for Goldman, he has been tapping up contacts in Europe and Asia to discuss opportunities for the business.
The number one priority for Mr Zoellick will be restoring the morale of the World Bank staff bruised by Mr Wolfowitz's management style and his assault on corruption within the developing world projects that the bank finances. Bank employees may be forgiven for taking a gulp at his appointment, since no profile of Mr Zoellick fails to mention how he is a difficult man to work for. Intellectually arrogant, he is prone to harsh words for those he disagrees with. Only yesterday, a supportive editorial in the financial world's bible, The Wall Street Journal, contained a hint: "Having published at least a dozen of Robert Zoellick's op-eds over the years, we know him as a man who neither minces his words nor takes easily to editing. …