U.S. President George W. Bush has nominated former trade envoy Robert B. Zoellick to replace departing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, but the writing is now clearly on the wall for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And it says that the rest of the world is no longer prepared to accept the monopoly that the United States and Europe have long exercised over these institutions.
Bush administration spin doctors are making it out that the bank's 24-member board announcement that it would accept other nominations until June 15 is pro forma. In fact, the old order is changing and Washington's automatic right to rule the bank is no longer accepted. Likewise, Europe's assumed right to nominate the head of the IMF is no longer taken for granted.
It is not just the fact that the right to nominate a president (or, in the case of the IMF, a managing director) resides with a single country or continent that matters. It is the danger that the country concerned will reinforce its power over the institution by nominating its own advisers to back up their nominee.
South Africa and Brazil, supported by Australia, have thrown down the gauntlet to the U.S. by insisting that Washington should forsake its assumed divine right to nominate World Bank presidents (and ditto Europe in the case of the IMF). There is no time like the present to begin reform, they have argued. In fact, South Africa has a very good alternative candidate in the person of Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, a globally acknowledged development expert. It remains to be seen if they will nominate someone to challenge Mr. Zoellick or knuckle under to U.S. diplomatic pressure.
- The Business Times (Singapore)