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conceptual mapping >  globalization and international relations  > Love, Lies, Wolfowitz, and the World Bank

Love, Lies, Wolfowitz, and the World Bank

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> The Zeleza Post

The unfolding corruption scandal of the World Bank President, Paul D. Wolfwitz, is an intriguing and entangled tale of love: the personal love life of Mr. Wolfowitz himself, the current love affair between neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism, and the long-standing marriage between capitalism and corruption, the development industry and the military-industrial complex, and the Northern-dominated international financial institutions and the institutionalization of dependency and poverty in the global South. The scandal derives its significance not simply from the salacious details of a powerful man’s personal peccadilloes that may yet bring him down, to the eternal glee of his many opponents including some within the World Bank itself, but as a morality tale of the free market, the unsavory strands woven into the fabric of contemporary global capitalism.

The World Bank is more than a multilateral development agency committed to the eradication of world poverty as it likes to portray itself in its glossy publications. It is one of the principal gendarmes of global capitalism, set up in 1944 together with the other Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization (then called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), to make the world safe for capitalism after the Second World War in the aftermath of the destabilizations of the Great Depression, the devastations of the war itself, and in the throes of fierce ideological rivalries between the capitalist world and the then expanding socialist bloc that would culminate in the Cold War between the superpowers and their client allies and proxy hot wars in the global South including Africa. Clearly, more is at stake in this saga than Mr. Wolfowitz’ personal corruption. The larger issue is the World Bank’s own corruption, its structural corruption if you will, the way it has corrupted development in the global South, how it has systematically undermined the prospects for sustainable development, self-determination, and democracy in these countries, sacrificing them to the almighty altar of Euroamerican global economic hegemony.

Mr. Wolfowitz is an easy man to dislike, even despise, as a neo-con hawk, one of the key architects of the indefensible and disastrous American invasion of Iraq, although you would not know it looking at his official biography on the World Bank website. Of his tenure at the Pentagon the site notes: “As Deputy Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush from 2001-2005, Mr. Wolfowitz’s responsibilities included oversight of the budget process as well as development of policy to respond to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001”. It is stated so blandly, so cleanly, so innocently; it is so eerie in its silences.

The details of the scandal are now well known. He helped arrange a generous package for his girlfriend, the Libyan born, Ms. Shaha Ali Riza, who was reluctantly transferred from the World Bank where she worked as the senior gender and civil society coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa Social and Economic Group to the State Department (although she is not even a U.S. citizen and it’s not clear how she got clearance) when Mr. Wolfowits became president to avoid conflict of interest. Her pay rose from $132,660 to $193,590, which was nearly $7,000 higher than the salary of the Secretary of State, Ms. Condoleeza Rice. Furthermore, upon Mr. Wolfowits retirement from the Bank in 2010 or 2015, Ms. Riza was assured return to the Bank at higher rank-as director or senior advisor if she returned in 2010 and vice-president if she returned in 2015. Oh, the eternal wonders of chivalry! Read the article Love, Lies, Wolfowitz, and the World Bank

date of on-line publication : 15 May 2007

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