Compassionate, image courtesy of Dr. Doom

Charles Onyango-Obbo of the East African tells us a bit of truth, and gives us something to smile over, concerning the legacy of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

Half the world seems to have come down on Wolfowitz from the time the scandal broke. Typically, a British columnist wrote, “In contemplating the near downfall of Wolfowitz, it’s hard to know whether to laugh to cry. Does one weep at the outrageousness of it all: the president of the World Bank, self-appointed apostle of ‘good governance’ and scourge of corruption, caught in a blatant act of nepotism and cronyism – exactly the vice he wants to stamp out in Third World countries his government lends money to??”
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While the World Bank has done some good, it is an imperial institution supremely unaccountable in its relationship with poor countries. Not too long ago, in many African countries, the second most powerful person after the president was not the army commander or the vice president, but the World Bank country representative.

The policy prescriptions of the Bank (of which I support the ones on economic liberalisation) and loan conditions could neither be reviewed nor questioned by elected parliaments and cabinets.

The longer Wolfowitz held on, the more the Bank would have been disgraced. In the process it would have come to seem ordinary and less intimidating. Indeed, it could be argued that by the time Wolfowitz leaves in June, the World Bank will have been much diminished.

To regain its prestige, it will have to eat humble pie and relaunch itself as an institution that listens. The democratisation of the World Bank that campaigners and critics have fought for for decades, could finally be around the corner.

In scandal, Wolfowitz may have done more to reform the Bank than if he had been scrupulously honest. We have to thank an African woman, Riza, for these blessings. And the best part is that there’s an international whispering campaign that the person to save the Bank today is another African – South Africa’s Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.