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Wolfowitz sets new course for World Bank

September 24, 2005

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Paul Wolfowitz, in his first policy
speech to member countries as World Bank president, called for
tangible results from bank programs to fight poverty, setting a
new course for an institution its critics say has lost its way.

In a speech on Saturday to the main policy-setting
committees of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund,
Wolfowitz gave the first clear presentation of how he will lead
the world’s main development agency over the next five years.

Wolfowitz laid out an agenda that sharpens the priorities
of the bank, which critics say has deviated too far from its
main mission of reducing poverty and become too mired in
bureaucracy.

The Bush administration’s pick to head the bank said he
will promote anti-corruption measures, accountability, good
governance, women’s empowerment, education, health, increased
infrastructure and agriculture.

“Whether investing in education, health, infrastructure,
agriculture, the environment, we in the World Bank must be sure
that we deliver results,” Wolfowitz told world finance
ministers and central bankers.

“And by results, let me be clear. I mean results that have
a real impact in the day-to-day lives of the poor. We stand
accountable to them,” he added

By pushing results-driven programs, Wolfowitz will be
responding to a long-standing U.S. government objective that
was a source of friction between former World Bank president
James Wolfensohn and the Bush Treasury Department.

The Bush administration clashed with Wolfensohn over the
bank’s lending practices, wanting more evidence that projects
were reducing poverty and money was not wasted on ill-conceived
programs or bureaucracy.

Wolfensohn, a Clinton appointee, came to the World Bank
from Wall Street and focused on making the institution relevant
and also turned the spotlight on global poverty and corruption.

“Mr. Wolfowitz is saying that to succeed in creating
opportunity for the poorest people, we must prioritize our
efforts and focus on producing measurable results on the ground
where it counts,” remarked one senior World Bank official.

AFRICA A PRIORITY

Wolfowitz also reiterated that Africa is a priority for the
World Bank as he tries to maintain a global focus on a
continent beset by poverty.

Soon after the former U.S. deputy defense secretary took
the reins of World Bank in June, he visited Nigeria, Burkina
Faso, Rwanda and South Africa.

“If we can help liberate the energies of the African people
and unleash the potential of the private sector to create jobs,
Africa will not only become a continent of hope but a continent
of accomplishment,” Wolfowitz will say.

Wolfowitz also called for more political accountability.

“Effective leaders also recognize that they are accountable
to their people,” he said. “Effective leaders listen.
Institutions of accountability like civil society and a free
press help leaders listen, hold them accountable for results
and are key to controlling corruption.”

He called for more action to combat corruption.

“Corruption drains resources and discourages investments,”
Wolfowitz said. “It benefits the privileged and deprives the
poor.”

Since his appointment, Wolfowitz has said he favored
continuing what Wolfensohn started — sending more staff to
countries that have World Bank programs instead of keeping them
in Washington.

“Our efforts to develop capacity must include our own
staff, particularly from developing countries,” he said.




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