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        Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
        Wednesday, April 11, 2007
        Corruption within the World Bank: Build a glass house & throw brinks in it. Why won’t you?
        This is good. A mixture of Clinton-Lewinsky and Cheney-Halliburt-Iraq good. World Bank's chief, Paul Wolfowitz' girlfriend (OK, everybody is referring to her as a "female friend" and I don't know the difference – so I use the terms interchangeably) got transferred from World Bank (to avoid conflict of interest – a "female friend" working under her "male friend" type of conflict that the bank doesn't allow) to State Departmnet when Wolfowitz became the boss of the Bank in 2005. So far so good. However, she got huge promotion with a huge raise and remains on WB's payroll. Now that's pure corruption! She earns more than Condi Rice apparently. Experts say that it was a big jump in raise and the position she holds was not opened for others… Corruption 101.

        As if the allegations are not serious and damaging, as if he is not in trouble with board members, as if it is highly hypocritical of the bank to lecture poor nations about good governanc..., what Paul Wolfowitz worries about right now is who possibly leaked this to Fox News? Who cares? The question is what's is going to be done about it?

        The irony of it all
        Exactly a year ago, Mr. Wolfowitz had this to say about corruption…
        Corruption not only undermines the ability of governments to function properly, it also stifles the growth of the private sector. We hear it from investors, domestic and foreign, investors who worry that where corruption is rampant, contracts are unenforceable, competition is skewed, and the costs of doing business becomes stifling. When investors see that, they take their money somewhere else.
        Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank President, Jakarta, Indonesia, April 11, 2006

        Unfortunately, that has come back to bite him. Investors (some 185 nations) are furious and things are not looking good for the Bank and Mr. Wolfowitz himself.

        The implications
        Although I know that corruption in Africa is real bad affecting entire nations’ economic development, it always feels bad when others (such as Mr. Wolfowitz) have this hollier-than-thou approach when they lecture poor nations about cleaning house while there are skeletons in their own closets.

        If the Bank remained just a financial institution and didn't become a self-appointed governance and policy maker on behalf of poor and corrupt nations, then all this might not have had teeth to bite. But, the Bank was actively twisting the arms of nations to change their policies if they want approval to borrow money. The bank tweaked and "…rewritten India's trade policy, fiscal policies, labor laws, health care regulations, environmental regulations, procurement rules and foreign exchange laws."

        Insult to injury
        As if that's not enough headache for the bank, there is a campaign (50 yeas is enough)to be launched on Friday the 13th of April (can't be good news for the bank), led by the likes of Danny Glover and prominent American and European NGOs, to bring the Bank to trial for its lousy economic and environmental policies that devastated lives in poor nations. Now they can add sleazy corruption to the list of sins. What perfect timing for the campaign to shake the Bank more while it's already shaky with this Wolfowitz-Shaha Riza scandal!

        Lesson for all
        For everybody's sake, I hope that the Government Accountability Project, angry board members, and even corrupt nations themselves will push enough for some serious measures to be taken against this crime. It is going to be a green light for all those corrupt governments (who steal from the poor, the sick, the most vulnerable, the illiterate...) if Mr. Wolfowitz comes out of this with a mere slap on the hand. How's the Bank ever going to preach about corruption in Africa if it doesn't clean its own mess seriously?

        Interesting links

        Leaked document on WB’s staff association’s response
        Wolfowitz’ response

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