Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fighting Bureaucracy at the World Bank is Hell

Fire of Liberty

If you haven't gotten into the meat of the story on Paul Wolfowitz and his current dust-up with the bureaucracy over at whole World Bank then I advise you to read the following column by Kevin Hassett. Though the facts and the ethics committee at the World Bank has cleared(Being they advised him to do what the members of the press deem as a wrong doing) Paul Wolfowitz of any impropriety, various members of the World Bank staff are still pushing forward their demands that the reform minded president step down. Though I personally tend to think this disdain has a lot to do with him being a member of the Bush administration and a participant in the Iraq war planning over at the Pentagon, I have to say that Hassert seems have hit the nail on the head when he noted the following:
The first is that an unscrutinized bureaucracy in charge of billions of dollars has, for many years, been up to no good. In this scenario, the Folsom investigations have hit the tip of the iceberg, and something along the lines of the United Nations ``Oil-for-Food'' scandal will eventually emerge.

The second (and more likely) possibility is that the staff and the board simply want to avoid embarrassment over their unwillingness to deal effectively with corruption in the past.

Adam Lerrick, my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute who was senior adviser to the chairman of a commission that took a critical look at international financial institutions, put it this way to me: ``The bank doesn't want to know the answers to these questions. They view a project as completed if the money is out the door. Their goal is to keep the money flowing, and the money flow to poor countries will slow to a trickle if they worry about corruption.''

To be sure, Wolfowitz has made some missteps. But the coordinated effort to harm him has revealed to polite society in Washington that something at the World Bank is seriously wrong.

Polite society has both Democratic and Republican members. The bureaucrats at the bank might have their way and they might get Wolfowitz's head. But if they do, they can be assured that the U.S. is going to focus even more intently on corruption at the bank.

The effort to discredit Wolfowitz has raised the stakes immeasurably. It seems unlikely the World Bank will ever be the same.

As with all bureaucracies, especially multi-national settings like the World Bank, the individual who comes in to reform the whole place and push out corruption is generally enemy number one and will catch hell trying to get work done. Here's hoping that Wolfowitz beats back his attackers so he can continue his current work.

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