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|WORLD BANK: Wolfowitz at The Door|
Bono and Bill Gates are two of the better-known names who have been mentioned as possible new presidents of the World Bank, though only the Microsoft founder would have qualified, according to the tradition that one of Washington's two multilateral financial bodies is headed by an American; the other, the International Monetary Fund, is run by a European. The announcement that George Bush's nominee is a US citizen was thus no surprise. But there was shock and consternation when the president named Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defence, and one of the prime movers of the Iraq war.
Past American appointments have been criticised for being nobodies. This time the problem is different. Mr Wolfowitz's intelligence is not in doubt, though his career at the Pentagon, as an investment banker and as US ambassador to Indonesia are only indirectly relevant to the most important development institution on earth. But he is gravely handicapped by his reputation as the neoconservative godfather of the Iraq invasion, whose unpopularity explains the froideur with which yesterday's news was received in France and Germany. Mr Bush's choice follows his nomination of John Bolton, a state department hawk and unilateralist, as the next US ambas sador to the UN. European governments badly wanted the bank to be led by a doveish figure such as Colin Powell, the former secretary of state; that would have been welcomed as evidence of the more multilateralist approach his successor, Condoleezza Rice, has promised.
NGOs fear that Mr Wolfowitz's free market outlook, combined with existing US interest in downsizing the bank, could run counter to development policy-making trends under the admired outgoing president, James Wolfensohn. Some worry that his strong emphasis on human rights may complicate relations with China. What is crucial is to continue the focus on poverty reduction that - in a hopeful sign - was begun by Robert McNamara, the former US secretary of defence, and also a hate figure before he took over in 1968.
Mr Bush's choice revives old questions about the selection process. The Commission for Africa recommended last week that heads of international institutions should be decided by open competition "for the best candidate rather than by traditions which limit these appointments by nationality". Europeans - who remember how the US managed to veto the German candidate to head the IMF last year - should now state their objections to Mr Wolfowitz loud and clear.
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