26 April 2007 Edition
International : Wolfowitz & the World Bank: Power, Corruption and Lies
Mr Clean comes a cropper
He became head of the World Bank promising to fight corruption, but now neo-con Paul Wolfowitz has himself become emblematic of the corruption at the heart of this particular Old Boys’ Club.
From the outset, Wolfowitz’ selection – by President Bush – as head of the international financial institution was controversial. But it went ahead regardless and it was clear Wolfowitz was being installed in order to further the neocon agenda, and utilise the enormous financial muscle of the bank to advance the interests of the so-called ‘free-market’.
The US government has traditionally elected the President of the World Bank, while the European Union selects the President of the International Monetary Fund. As they say, it depends on who you know.
Wolfowitz identified ‘corruption’ in developing countries as his priority and then, quietly, set about ensuring that his partner Saha Riza received a whopping great pay rise and greatly improved working conditions, over the objections of World Bank staff.
Indeed, the bank’s staff association say Riza’s new terms were “grossly out of line” with bank rules and the bank’s executive board said that it did not give approval for Riza’s pay rise.
More than forty World Bank officials, including 18 former vice-presidents, have now joined the chorus calling for his resignation. A senior German government Minister has added his voice to the throng. It is only a matter of time before Wolfowitz goes.
However, corrupt as those actions were, less scrutiny has fallen on some key appointments made by Wolfowitz during his short tenure, appointments that have a greater capacity to do harm, globally.
His most recent appointment was that of former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister, Marwan Muasher, to the post of senior vice president for external affairs. Musaher was Jordanian ambassador to the US in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and was crucial to maintaining his country’s support for same. This was payback time.
Nine months previously, Wolfowitz appointed as senior vice president and general counsel, none other than Ana Palacio – the former Spanish Foreign Minister who all but drove tanks into Baghdad herself, so enthusiastic was she for the war. You may remember her government fell after they tried to blame the 11 March, 2004, Madrid train bombings on ETA.
And last June, Wolfowitz named Juan Jose Daboub as one of the World Bank’s two managing directors. Daboub is the former El Salvadoran Finance Minister and a senior member of the right-wing Arena party, a party whose hands are bloody due to their historic links to the Salvadoran death squads. Hardly surprising to learn that El Salvador was a member of Bush’s ill-fated Coalition of the Willing and sent some 400 troops to El Salvador. Incidentally, Daboub also believes the US needs to be “more aggressive” when it comes to dealing with less than friendly nations, in Latin America.
And Saha Riza? The Libyan-born muslim, who saw her salary rise from $132,660 to $193,590 (that would be a cost of living increase?) is said to share a passion for ‘democracy in the middle East’ and was influential in persuading the neocon cabal to launch the Iraq invasion.
Seems like all roads lead to Baghdad.