New President Proposed for World Bank President Bush has nominated Robert Zoellick, the former No. 2 at the State Department, to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank.
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New President Proposed for World Bank

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New President Proposed for World Bank

New President Proposed for World Bank

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ALEX COHEN, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Cohen.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand.

You think you are living green? Coming up, we'll hear from a woman in Hawaii who's taken living off the land to a whole new level.

COHEN: But first, today President Bush announced his pick to replace Paul Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank. His choice, former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Bob Zoellick is the right man to succeed Paul in this vital work. He's a leader who motivates employees. He builds a constituent support and focuses on achieving goals. Pleased that he's once again agreed to serve our country.

BRAND: Zoellick's nomination still must be approved by the World Bank's board, usually a rubber stamp but in this case the board is still angry over Wolfowitz's tenure. He had to resign amid a pay scandal involving his girlfriend.

BRAND: Peter Goodman has been covering the World Bank story for the Washington Post, and he joins us now from New York.

Welcome back to DAY TO DAY.

Mr. PETER GOODMAN (Washington Post): Thanks very much.

BRAND: Peter, what do people working at the World Bank have to say about this choice, Robert Zoellick?

Mr. GOODMAN: Well, there's mixed views. On the one hand there's a feeling that anybody other than Wolfowitz has got to be an improvement. They know that Zoellick has a reputation as a very smart person, somebody who thinks strategically, somebody who is used to operating in an international context, given his background as a trade negotiator, as a deputy secretary of state.

But there's also a feeling for many people at the bank that at this point anyone who could be nominated by this particular American president might not be more of the same. I talked to a senior bank official yesterday who said, you know, Zoellick has a practical mindset and he's clearly smart, but he comes from the same people who sent us Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales and Donald Rumsfeld.

BRAND: And in fact many World Bank member nations have said that they wanted to put an end to this kind of longstanding tradition of the U.S. handpicking the World Bank leader, and now here we are with another Bush selection. What happened?

Mr. GOODMAN: Yeah, there's a lot of controversy over this process and there had been some suggestion that the Bush administration, to mollify some of these critics, might have come up with the list of two or even three names acceptable to the administration and forward them on to the World Bank board and said, you know, you pick.

And in the end, Treasury Secretary Paulson, who headed the search, said they opted just for one name because they want to put an end to the crisis as quickly as possible, but there's also, obviously in the background an issue of American power imperatives, and there's been this 60-year-plus agreement under which the American president has the right to name the head of the World Bank. And there's a feeling within the administration that that needs to be preserved.

BRAND: What's Robert Zoellick going to need to do to help the World Bank recover from the Wolfowitz controversy?

Mr. GOODMAN: Well, immediately he has to try to patch up morale probably by getting rid of the last aides connected to Wolfowitz, who were very controversial, who insulated Wolfowitz, who are seen as sort of extensions of the Bush administration within the bank.

But more broadly, he needs to listen to the career vice presidents who have a sense of ownership at the bank to draw out their opinions as to how to make the bank more relevant at a time when there's more and more private money available to governments around the world.

And he very quickly has to figure out how to raise $28-30 billion for the International Development Association, which is an arm of the bank that contributes a lot of funds, in particular to sub-Saharan Africa, and that's going to run dry next year if they don't raise some money.

BRAND: A lot of Americans have been paying attention to this story because it's, you know, its kind of a juicy story. It's scandalous. It involves this workplace romance, but most Americans don't usually pay that much attention to the World Bank. Now that the scandal is kind of dying down a bit, do you think Americans are going to pay attention to the World Bank and should we pay attention to the World Bank?

Mr. GOODMAN: Clearly we should pay attention to the World Bank in that the World Bank doles out $23 billion a year, and 16 percent of that money comes from the U.S. Treasury, i.e., American taxpayers. In terms of the bank, you know, as a global poverty fighting institution, I mean there's a debate over its relevance already.

China is now distributing low-interest loans across Africa. Hugo Chavez, the charismatic president of Venezuela, is distributing aid across much of Latin America. Huge institutions - the Gates Foundation - the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS has stepped in in a large way in terms of public health. So the bank has had a diminishing role. But again, we're talking about an institution that lays out $23 billion a year.

BRAND: Peter Goodman of the Washington Post, thanks so much.

Mr. GOODMAN: Thank you.

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