Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s poorest region, and Mr. Wolfowitz has appropriately made it his top priority. On his first day on the job, he met with a large group of African ambassadors and advocates. His first trip as bank president was a swing through Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. He also recruited two African-born women vice presidents, a rarity at the bank.
If you’re surprised by that last fact, then you don’t appreciate that the World Bank has always been a sinecure for developed-world politicians. They get handsome salaries, tax free, and their performance is measured not by how much poverty they cure but by how much money they disperse.
Mr. Wolfowitz has upset this sweetheart status quo by focusing more on results, and especially on the corruption that undermines development and squanders foreign aid. Yet many of the poor countries themselves welcome such intervention. At the same April 14 press conference, Zambian Finance Minister N’Gandu Peter Magande endorsed the anticorruption agenda:
“We should keep positive that whatever happens to the president, if, for example, he was to leave, I think whoever comes, we insist that he continues where we have been left, in particular on this issue of anticorruption. That is a cancer that has seen quite a lot of our countries lose development and has seen the poverty continuing in our countries. And therefore . . . we want to live up to what [Wolfowitz] made us believe” that “it is important for ourselves to keep to those high standards.”
The real World Bank scandal is that Mr. Wolfowitz’s enemies don’t care much about Africa. The French and Brits who want him ousted have never entirely shaken the paternalism they developed during the colonial era. Their real priority is controlling the bank purse-strings and perquisites.
As for the coup attempt, Mr. Wolfowitz’s fate now rests with the 24-member bank board. Europeans dominate, while we saw only two Africans listed on the bank’s Web site. These profiles in buck-passing have asked Mr. Wolfowitz to meet with them on Monday; his lawyer can join him but won’t be allowed to speak.