World Bank Approves Zoellick

By Jeannie Aversa
Associated Press
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Robert B. Zoellick, a seasoned player in international financial and diplomatic circles, won the unanimous approval of the World Bank's board yesterday to become its next president.

Zoellick, 53, succeeds Paul D. Wolfowitz, whose last day at the poverty-fighting institution is Saturday, ending a stormy two-year tenure. The new president is to begin his five-year term Sunday.

"I am ready to get to work," Zoellick said shortly after the board's action.

Wolfowitz faced criticism from the start because of his role in the Iraq war when he was deputy defense secretary. However, it was his role in arranging a hefty pay raise for Shaha Riza, his girlfriend and a bank employee, that forced his departure. That prompted a staff revolt and calls by Europeans and others for Wolfowitz to resign.

President Bush turned to Zoellick, his former top trade envoy and No. 2 diplomat, to heal wounds and mend the relationships strained by the Wolfowitz ethics case. Bush, in welcoming the board's action yesterday, called Zoellick "a dynamic leader who is deeply committed to the mission of the World Bank."

Zoellick brings to the World Bank years of experience in foreign and economic policy under three Republican presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. Zoellick left the Bush administration last year to become an executive at the Wall Street investment firm Goldman Sachs.

The board, in a brief statement, said Zoellick brings "strong leadership and managerial qualities as well as a proven track record in international affairs and the drive required to enhance the credibility and effectiveness of the bank."

As World Bank chief, he will have his work cut out for him. He will need to regain trust, rebuild credibility and mend frayed relations inside the institution and with its member countries worldwide. He will also need to persuade countries to contribute nearly $30 billion over the next few years to fund a bank program that provides interest-free loans to the world's poorest countries.

The board said it was confident that Zoellick will be able to "address the challenges facing the bank."

Of those challenges, Zoellick said: "The world has changed enormously since the creation of the bank some 60 years ago. This accomplished institution of development, reconstruction and finance not only needs to adapt; it must lead the way" to help the world's poor.

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, who was highly critical of Wolfowitz, was one of the first to congratulate Zoellick.

"The greatest tasks facing mankind in the 21st century are waiting: The fight against poverty and climate change," Wieczorek-Zeul said in a statement. "I look forward to cooperating with him and wish him much success."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company