One last bit of Paul Wolfowitz fun, from an interview in this morning’s Volkskrant with Herman Wijffels, the Dutch executive director at the World Bank who led the internal commission that investigated the Wolfowitz scandal. (And yes, I too find the repeated involvement of Netherlanders in this mess–former World Bank ethics chief Ad Melkert is also Dutch–deeply suspicious.) As always, the clunky translation is mine:
Was there more going on than just the salary increase for his girlfriend Shaha Riza?
Absolutely. This man led in a disastrous fashion. He made the bank completely insecure. The trust that existed was transformed into suspicion. In addition, he developed no coherent strategy for the World Bank. I talked to him about that. But he had little interest in it.
You suggest that another president wouldn’t have had to resign over such an affair.
Someone at the top of an institution must of course be extremely careful. But if he was otherwise an excellent leader, maybe it wouldn’t have gotten this far.
Wolfowitz’s resignation took a while.
Too long. You can’t have such a controversy at this kind of organization — the whole world was able to follow the battle. That caused the bank great damage. In the business where I used to work [Rabobank] the decision would have been made a month ago. But the World Bank is a very political institution.
What did you think of the statement the World Bank issued? The bank said that it accepted that Wolfowitz behaved “ethically” and “in good faith.”
I had to swallow hard. Obviously with such a forced resignation there’s always an attempt to wrap it in pretty words, especially when the departure is arranged in political circles. But this went really far.
What will the successor have to do to repair the damage?
The bank is out of step with the times. In the development arena new players have arisen like the Gates Foundation. Poor countries no longer have to knock on the World Bank’s door because they can get loans from the capital markets or countries like China. The World Bank thus needs to think about what its value-added still is. I think the bank needs to focus on the new global dilemmas: the greenhouse-gas problem, pandemics, the looming water shortage, the energy question. All these problems have a huge influence on the poorest.