World Bank President won’t leave without a bang


This hasn’t hugged the headlines in Southeast Asia and not much in the Americas but the significance of the news is the institution involved–the World Bank.

The saga started when World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz unwittingly gave her girlfriend a pay raise. The raise was too much that it made a number of staff and even outsiders howl in disgust. We’re talking about US$194,000 annual salary–tax free! This is roughly US$16,166.67 a month–how sweet is that?!

Wolfowitz came on board World Bank on a rough start. Being one of Iraq War’s acknowledged architects, his nomination was not welcomed, as usual by most developing world. His girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked at the bank before Wolfowitz’s appointment in 2005. As a communications adviser in the bank’s Middle East department, she was earning close to US$133,000. She was transferred to the State Department to avoid a conflict of interest but remained on the bank’s payroll.

Wolfowitz insisted that the Bank ethics committee knew all about the details about his action on her girlfriend’s pay raise and acted in good faith. In good faith, he acted to increase Ms Riza’s salary to US$180,000 then finally to US$193,590–tax free.

The bank ethics committee, however, is acting on a whistleblower’s complaint on Wolfowitz ethical lapses with one identifying Riza’s pay raise. Wolfowitz insisted that the ethics committee knew of the pay raise (so, as to who’s saying the truth one will never know).

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz. Photo from Aljazeera.net/english

The EU once supported Wolfowitz appointment but it is now one of the group strongly calling for his firing. Bush, as expected, threw his support behind his man but eventually said that the investigation should take its course

Still trying to fight for his job, Wolfowitz even threatened  the panel that his firing would be that bad, as in very bad, for the bank. He cited that policies he started and his campaign against corruption among others.

In the end, Wolfowitz saw that the only way out of the mess is OUT. So, he’s now trying to broker a deal with the bank for his graceful exit (well so he can dupe another organziation, company or country–maybe the UN might want to take him in?).

The World Bank has not come out always as a good guy ever since it was established and this recent development is not helping it in anyway. But I am aghast to know that Wofowitz won’t take this matter as is. If he’s coming down, others should also go down or take the blame. And now, he’s trying to negotiate a financial package for his departure??? I just can’t take how intelligent people like Wolfowitz could be so slyly witty to go around the system and still have his last laugh–I guess the package won’t be lower than US$500,000?? enough said. grrrrrrr.

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