Wanted: World Bank President; Experience Required
Friday, May 25, 2007
As the Bush administration narrows a list of candidates to replace World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz, experience running a large organization has emerged as a primary requirement for the job, senior administration officials said yesterday.
The next World Bank president will be an American, continuing a tradition that has held since the institution's creation after World War II, said the officials, who spoke on condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
Among the chief contenders under serious consideration are former U.S. trade representative Robert B. Zoellick and Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt, the officials said.
An official said it was unlikely the administration will settle on a former senator, suggesting that such a profile does not ensure competence in overseeing the bank, which has 10,000 employees in 100 offices around the world.
That appeared to rule out two men whose names have been mentioned prominently in connection with the job: Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and former Senate majority leader, and Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Republican strategists have suggested that Frist and Lugar could be logical candidates. Frist earned political chits from the Bush administration in agreeing to become majority leader after Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) relinquished the post for making remarks widely considered racist. Frist, a heart surgeon, has traveled frequently to Africa and is said to be keenly interested in development issues.
Lugar is seen as carrying prestige in foreign circles and has experience in diplomacy. His appointment would perhaps help repair American relations with allies that were strained by the Iraq war.
In focusing on candidates with management credentials, however, the Bush administration appears to have concluded that Wolfowitz's tenure at the bank failed in part because he lacked institutional credibility. Wolfowitz resigned last week after a bank panel concluded that he broke ethics rules in engineering a raise for his girlfriend, though that was only the latest of his numerous battles with the World Bank staff.
Wolfowitz , a primary architect of the Iraq war in his previous post at the Pentagon, arrived at the bank with enemies around the world. Still, senior bank officials said that many initially gave him a chance, with Wolfowitz ultimately losing support because he insulated himself and seemed ignorant of the basic workings of the institution.
"He was an incompetent manager," said Devesh Kapur, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of "The World Bank: Its First Half Century," an official history. "You're running an international bureaucracy with highly competent people. No matter what your ideology is, that's irrelevant. The leader of the bank must be respected by his staff."
Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. is compiling a list of possible replacements, floating names with his counterparts in foreign capitals.
Zoellick, 53, carries appeal as an internationally prominent figure who hashed out the agreement that brought China into the World Trade Organization six years ago. He served as undersecretary of state in the first Bush administration, helping broker German reunification and peace treaties in Central America. Many expected that he would have been named to the post two years ago, but Wolfowitz was nominated instead.
Zoellick also brings a reputation as a pugnacious lawyer who is sometimes less than attuned to the niceties of international diplomacy. "He's a bull in a china shop," a senior Republican official said.
Kimmitt, a former ambassador to Germany, is viewed as a safe choice, and well-versed in the bank's development work.
As outsiders see it, neither Kimmitt nor Zoellick would be likely to strain relations between Washington and foreign governments. But the selection process now underway, with the White House continuing the tradition of selecting the bank's chief, has become an irritant in some world capitals. Interest groups are calling for the bank's chief to be selected not in deference to the United States but on professional merits.
"Wolfowitz was a low benchmark," said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and former chief economist at the World Bank's sister organization, the International Monetary Fund. "I have no particular cause to be optimistic that this time the United States will get it."