WASHINGTON, (AP) -Robert Zoellick, President Bush’s former trade chief and No. 2 diplomat, appeared certain to win approval as the World Bank’s next president.
The World Bank’s 24-member board scheduled a closed-door meeting Monday to take up Zoellick’s nomination, which was put forward by Bush. No other countries nominated candidates.
Zoellick would succeed Paul Wolfowitz, who will step down on June 30, ending a stormy two-year tenure at the poverty-fighting institution.
Wolfowitz courted controversy from the start because of his role in the Iraq war when he was deputy defense secretary. However, it was his role in arranging a hefty pay raise for Shaha Riza, his girlfriend and bank employee, that forced his upcoming departure.
To help mend relationships strained by the Wolfowitz episode, Zoellick took a two-week global tour to Africa, Europe and Latin America. His goals were listening and learning, he said.
Zoellick, 53, brings to the World Bank years of experience in the foreign and economic policy arenas under three Republican presidents, starting with Ronald Reagan. Zoellick left the Bush administration last year to become an executive at the Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.
He met with the board for around four hours last Wednesday to discuss key issues, including challenges of development, the bank’s governance and leadership as well as future strategic directions.
The controversy over Wolfowitz’s role in the pay raise for Riza led to a staff revolt and calls by Europeans and others for him to resign.
The whole matter was seen as a growing liability that threatened to tarnish the institution’s reputation and hobble its ability to persuade countries around the world to contribute billions of dollars to provide financial assistance to poor nations.
By tradition, the World Bank has been run by an American. The Bush administration made clear it wanted to keep that decades-old practice firmly intact throughout the Wolfowitz debacle. The United States is the bank’s largest shareholder and its biggest financial contributor.