Thursday, May 31, 2007

Zoellick nomination to head World Bank prompts cheers, jeers.

International Herald Tribune: Zoellick has a new agenda for World Bank
Wall Street Journal (posted on Zoellick's World Bank bid garners support
Servihoo (Mauritania): Zoellick choice as World Bank president "grotesque": activist group

Robert Zoellick, former U.S. Trade Representative under the current President Bush and Washington insider, was nominated by the U.S. President to head the World Bank in the wake of Paul Wolfowitz’s controversy-wracked resignation.

Zoellick’s nomination must now be approved by the 24-member board of the World Bank. However, most reports suggest that he will be approved by the board without much contention. Zoellick’s supporters, including former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker assert that he will bring strong leadership to the Bank and is committed to its mission of alleviating poverty. Nancy Birdsall, president of a Washington-based NGO called the Center for Global Development, stated that Zoellick’s diplomatic skill and experience will serve him well in the post, charging that former Bank president Wolfowitz had lost sight of the institution’s mission and alienated the board. She said that Zoellick is well-equipped to undertake the process of “calming and healing” which she claims is badly needed at the Bank.

Critics of the nomination voiced concerns that Zoellick, as a proponent of free-market economics, is a poor fit for the Bank in a global climate that is beginning to doubt that free markets are a sound approach to poverty alleviation. The European-based Committee for Abolition of the Third World Debt has called Zoellick’s nomination “grotesque.”

Others, notably Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, criticized not only the nominee but the nomination process itself. In particular, she took issue with the fact that the United States has for sixty years exercised it “prerogative” to select the World Bank president, despite the fact that the Bank is a multilateral institution. She suggests that the Bank presidency should rotate among nations, selecting the best people and not limiting candidates to a roster of US citizens.

Historically, the United States has selected the head of the World Bank while Europe has selected the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, developing nations and up-and-coming economic powers in particular have criticized this practice.

Of his future as Bank president, Zoellick himself has stated that he must first work to “calm the waters” at the Bank. He also stated that the Bank is undergoing “mission adjustment” but did not go into detail on this statement. Zoellick has not set forth a concrete agenda, and commentators have looked to his past—in particular his role as former U.S. Trade Representative—in attempts to forecast what his approach might be.

The fact remains, however, that such prognosticating may do little to reveal the path Zoellick will take if his nomination is approved. As the U.S. Trade Representative, Zoellick was an appointee of the Bush administration for a post in the same. In this situation, Zoellick is again an appointee of President Bush, but this time the position to which he would be elevated is not an administrative post, rather it is to head a multilateral, international institution.

For discussion:
1. Should only one nation or region enjoy the “prerogative” of selecting the leaders of multilateral, international institutions?

2. Do you think Zoellick is a good choice for the post?

3. Do you think that the World Bank should promote only free market economies?

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