World Bank job to be filled fast

White House promises to work quickly in naming a successor to Wolfowitz

May 19, 2007|By New York Times News Service.

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration promised yesterday to find someone quickly to succeed Paul D. Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank and bring management skills to the job of healing an institution battered by the turmoil over Wolfowitz's tenure.

"We want to make sure that we are selecting the best individual for the job," said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman. "We want someone who has a real passion for lifting people out of poverty."

The administration also reiterated that the next bank president should be an American, as has been the case since it was founded in the 1940s. Many European leaders are on record as favoring an international competition and are hoping that the United States considers people in other countries, but other nations earlier signaled that if Wolfowitz resigned, they would go along with another American as bank president.

Wolfowitz told colleagues on the World Bank's board of directors, in a letter released yesterday, that "we must move forward in a spirit of forgiveness, both for the sake of each of us as individuals and for the sake of the Bank Group's mission to serve the world's poor."

Although he plans to remain in office until June 30, he said he would not make major personnel or policy decisions and would delegate day-to-day functions to subordinates. "I may make a farewell trip to Africa at the request of a number of leaders, but would consult with you prior to making any plans," he told the board of directors.

Wolfowitz resigned Thursday after weeks of furor over a generous compensation package he arranged for his companion, Shaha Ali Riza, when she was transferred from the bank because he had become president. There was also widespread unhappiness over many of Wolfowitz's policies and actions at the bank.

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. is to lead a search for a new bank president, but ultimately the choice will be made by President Bush, administration officials said. Paulson's priority, they said, will be to find a capable and experienced manager, perhaps at a corporation, banking firm or university.

Administration officials, who requested anonymity because they didn't want to criticize Wolfowitz on the record, said that one of the reasons he ran into trouble at the bank was that he was not a consensus builder.

Wolfowitz sought to institute new policies to fight corruption in the countries aided by the bank, for example. But bank officials complained that he failed to lay the groundwork by consulting country managers at the bank and the board of directors before suspending aid to some countries. This year, the board adopted a policy forcing him to consult them before cutting off financing to countries accused of tolerating graft.

The Treasury Department said that Paulson had begun to consult finance and economic development ministers in other countries about possible choices for the post, or at least about the kind of candidate he was seeking.

In addition, Paulson's deputy, Robert M. Kimmitt, discussed the matter yesterday with leading finance ministers who are attending the Group of 8 session in Potsdam, Germany, this weekend.

Among the names being mentioned are Bill Frist, the former Republican senator from Tennessee and former Senate majority leader, and Robert B. Zoellick, a former deputy secretary of state and U.S. trade representative, now a top executive at Goldman Sachs in New York.

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