Normally the World Bank leads a fairly sheltered existence. It gets on with making important policy decisions, lending money and collecting debt in the name of global poverty reduction. Occasionally, however, officials at the Washington-based institution find themselves at the centre of popular and media attention.
The last time was the turn of the millennium when anti-globalisation marches surrounded the institution several times. But that was nothing compared to this month. Because of the antics of the Bankâ€™s president and his senior appointees the World Bank has been all over the airwaves, front pages and blogs, and not for the right reasons.
The Bank states its aim as creating â€śa world free of povertyâ€ť. Paul Wolfowitz, its president for the last two years, made it his mission to stamp out corruption as one important way to do this. Providing public money to invest in health care, education, agriculture and similar is certainly very important: itâ€™s what I work on. But the World Bank and its current president, have very fixed views on how to achieve this, and they have the power (of the purse) to make their views stick.
Many people have challenged the fanatical focus on corruption that Wolfowitz brought with him to the Bank (and some felt it was a cover for his lack of vision on other matters and an attempted distraction from his role as a key author of the Bush administrationâ€™s failed Iraq policy. They are troubled by not only Wolfowitzâ€™s substantive agenda, but also his style. He surrounded himself with key aides from the Pentagon and proceeded to consult them rather than the Bankâ€™s staff (with years of experience) or board (with the political mandate to make decisions).
In a nutshell Wolfowitz proceeded to make more enemies in and around the World Bank, to add to the long list from his previous job.
So when news broke two weeks ago of corruption and nepotism at the top of this poverty-fighting, anti-corruption public institution, Wolfowitz had few friends to call on. And many people waiting to pounce.