Saturday, May 19, 2007

Battle Begins

For the next leader of the World Bank:

The search has begun in earnest for a successor to Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. But every sign is that despite widespread demands for change, the global lending institution's new president will once again be an American.

As the Bank's board met here to set in motion the nominating process, the European Commission in Brussels urged a quick appointment, stressing that the organisation needed "stable and strong political leadership". The White House announced that President Bush would soon name a candidate, to ensure "an orderly transition" that would allow the Bank to refocus on its mission of fighting poverty and promoting development.

Technically Mr Wolfowitz is staying on until the end of June. But so disliked is he among staff that the institution will be leaderless, in effect, until a new president is installed, making the search for a replacement especially urgent.

But there was no indication that demands from aid groups and development specialists for a more open selection process, embracing candidates from all countries, would be met. Instead, as on every occasion since the Bank was set up in 1945, an incoming president will once again be an American citizen, according to unwritten custom chosen by the US government, the largest shareholder in the Bank.

There was a time when finanacial interest was understood to be mightier that the sword - and that time is now.