Category Archives: The World Bank

Wolfowitz, Gonzales, and Conservative “Ethics”

This is almost too perfect.

Paul Wolfowitz (AP photo by Yves Logghe), along with Richard Perle one of the main architects of the Iraq invasion and shoved upstairs to be President of the World Bank, may be about to lose his job for using his influence to get his girlfriend a job in the Bush Administration for which she was, shall we say, marginally qualified. Brought before a World Bank investigating committee, Wolfie promptly blamed…the World Bank.

In a 10-page statement addressed to the chairman of the investigating committee, Wolfowitz reiterated his assertion that he was merely following the instructions of the bank’s ethics committee when he arranged a job transfer and substantial pay raise for his companion, Shaha Riza, shortly after arriving at the bank.

But in a new characterization, Wolfowitz asserted that the ethics dispute, far from an indictment of him personally, amounts to a shared institutional breakdown. He portrayed the crisis as a misunderstanding — the product of decent intentions gone awry, combined with vague and dubious bank rules.

“While I am prepared to acknowledge that we all acted in good faith at the time and there was perhaps some confusion and miscommunication among us, it is grossly unfair and wrong to suggest that I intended to mislead anyone, and I urge the committee to reject the allegation that I lack credibility,” Wolfowitz wrote. “Rather than attempt to adjudicate between our conflicting interpretations of the events that occurred here, the board should recognize that this situation is the product of ambiguous bank rules and unclear governance mechanisms.”

Amazing, isn’t it? The president of one of the most complex financial organizations in the world didn’t realize that nepotism was wrong because the WB’s ethics rules confused him.

There are two things you can say about the conservative American oligarchy and their elitist enablers that are undeniably true.

  1. There is no bottom to their greed. They want it all, and they want it without so much as a smell of accompanying responsibility or risk.
  2. They can’t tell right from wrong without a scorecard.

Maybe that’s why corporations and the out-of-control rich don’t like rules: they don’t understand them.

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The World Bank Report: What Does it Really Mean?

I don’t know what to call this: Ironic? Naive? A joke?

Despite an intensified campaign against poverty, World Bank programs have failed to lift incomes in many poor countries over the past decade, leaving tens of millions of people suffering stagnating or declining living standards, according to a report released Thursday by the bank’s autonomous assessment arm.

“Autonomous” in this case has to be translated as “clueless, out of the loop”. You see, what the “autonomous assessment arm” is criticizing happens to have been the goal of the World Bank from the beginning.

Among 25 poor countries probed in detail by the bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, only 11 experienced reductions in poverty from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, while 14 had the same or worsening rates over that term. The group said the sample was representative of the global picture.”

Achievement of sustained increases in per capita income, essential for poverty reduction, continues to elude a considerable number of countries,” the report declared, singling out programs aimed at the rural poor as particularly ineffective. Roughly half of such efforts from 2001 to 2005 “did not lead to satisfactory results.” During that period, new World Bank loans and credits aimed directly at rural development totaled $9.6 billion, or about one-tenth of total bank lending, according to the group.

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[T]he study found that growth has rarely been sustained, exposing the most vulnerable people — the rural poor — to volatile shifts in their economic fortunes. Per capita income rose continuously from 2000 to 2005 in only two in five of the countries that borrowed from the World Bank, the study reported, and it increased for the full decade, from 1995 to 2005, in only one in five.

The study emphasized that economic growth is, by itself, no fix: How the gains are distributed is just as important. In China, Romania, Sri Lanka and many Latin American countries, swiftly expanding economies have improved incomes for many, but the benefits have been limited by a simultaneous increase in economic inequality, putting most of the spoils into the hands of the rich and not enough into poor households, the study concluded.

“But..but…but…that’s what we wanted to do!”Indeed.

In a terrifying and important new book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins, who for 30 years negotiated a lot of those deals in Third World countries while working for an international consulting firm on behalf of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, lets the cat all the way out of the bag – making poor countries poorer was precisely what the WB and IMF intended to do – and for very good reason, at least from their perspective.

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