Despite a written answer to Parliament last week re-stating the UK’s long-standing commitment to ending the gentleman’s agreement for the selection of the heads of the World Bank and the IMF, Hilary Benn’s reaction to the Wolfowitz resignation is prompting worries that the UK has consented to a backroom deal that allows the US to continue to appoint the World Bank’s President.
The statement issued by the Department for International Development’s press office on behalf of Hilary Benn reads:
“I am relieved that this damaging time for the Bank is finally over. I acknowledge the achievements of the Bank over the past two years. It has helped to deliver debt relief to the poorest countries, agreed a new African Action plan and is investing more in education, health and clean water. The Bank’s task now is to renew its efforts to lift people out of poverty.
”The UK remains a steadfast supporter of the bank, and its staff, as a force for good in the world.”
Compare this with the statement to Parliament:
The UK has a long-standing commitment to support developing country calls for a stronger say at the World Bank. As last year’s UK White Paper on International Development makes clear, the practice of picking the heads of the World Bank and the IMF based on nationality should end and both presidents should be chosen on merit.
Has the UK gone back on its principles to secure the resignation of Wolfowitz? It is unclear whether UK Executive Director Tom Scholar, who is reported to have been a key mediator in the deal between Wolfowitz and the board, will oppose the selection of any candidate that is not chosen from an open, transparent and merit-based process.