Copyright ©2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Today was the deadline for the World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, to respond to findings that he broke rules by arranging a pay raise for his girlfriend.

Next week, the bank executive board is expected to decide whether to ask Wolfowitz for his resignation or allow him to stay.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reports that no matter what, the World Bank is likely to change.

TOM GJELTEN: The question that prompted this controversy was whether Paul Wolfowitz violated conflict of interest rules when he personally arranged a pay raise for his girlfriend. Wolfowitz says he thought he had the approval of the bank's ethics committee to do what he did. His critics say he went beyond the committee's guidance.

The verdict of the bank executive board will come next week, unless Wolfowitz resigns before a vote is taken. If his largely European critics prevail, Wolfowitz will be gone. If the Bush administration - still supporting Wolfowitz - prevails, he'll stay. Either way, the bank may never be the same.

Until now, the United States has had the right to choose the bank president, while the Europeans have traditionally chosen the head of the International Monetary Fund. Colin Bradford, a development expert at the Brookings Institution, predicts that custom will now change.

Mr. COLIN BRADFORD (Development Expert, Brookings Institution): A very good outcome of this is if the Europeans and Americans decide together to each give up their prerogatives to name the directors of the two institutions, and agree to a merit-based process. That would be excellent.

GJELTEN: European governments are seen as more keen to make this reform than the United States is. If the Europeans allow Wolfowitz to keep his job - board sources say - he may well be the last bank president chosen by the United States. But if the Bush administration backs down or loses, and Wolfowitz is forced out, there could also be consequences.

The dispute of Wolfowitz tenure has raised rarely heard criticisms of the bank's own policies and practices. At a senate hearing yesterday, Republican Jud Gregg of New Hampshire took advantage of the Wolfowitz dispute to ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

Senator JUD GREGG (Republican, New Hampshire): Do you believe we should be taking a - the World Bank should be taking a different tact than what it has been taking in the last 20 years? Should it restructure itself and refocus itself relative to poverty and alleviating poverty and how it prioritizes nations and how it prioritizes regions that it focuses on?

GJELTEN: Rice said she does think there needs to be a discussion about the bank's role from here on. If Wolfowit's mainly European critics succeed in forcing him out, the bank's U.S. critics are certain to pressure for that reassessment.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.