Washington: The World Bank on 26 June approved Robert Zoellick as its next president as the 185-country development lender moved to turn a page after a scandal that undermined its credibility around the world.
Zoellick, 53, who has been a vice-chairman at investment bank Goldman Sachs, faces the task of rebuilding trust in the development lender that cracked under Paul Wolfowitz.
Wolfowitz, who has served a troubled two years, was forced to resign after a bank panel found he had violated rules in arranging a lavish pay-and-promotion package for his female companion, a bank employee.
Zoellick, a former top US diplomat and trade chief, was unanimously approved for a five-year term as the 11th president of the bank to succeed Wolfowitz, who is to step down Saturday, the 24-member board said in a statement.
“Once I start at the World Bank, I will be eager to meet the people who drive the agenda of overcoming poverty in all regions, with particular attention to Africa, advancing social and economic development, investing in growth, and encouraging hope, opportunity, and dignity,” Zoellick said in a statement.
Zoellick, a former deputy secretary of state and US trade representative in the administration of US President George W Bush, was nominated by Bush on May 30 to succeed Wolfowitz, a former US deputy defense secretary and an architect of the Iraq war.
Zoellick faces daunting challenges in taking up the new post.
“There is no doubt that the institution has been through a period of turmoil and I think that one of the tasks of a new president will be to try to calm the waters,” Zoellick said in Berlin this month on a global “listening” trip.
The president of the World Bank serves a renewable, five-year term.
Under an unwritten agreement, the United States chooses the head of the World Bank and European countries select the leader of its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund.
The lengthy scandal that led to the resignation of Wolfowitz had divided the staff and cast a cloud over the credibility of the development lender.
But the crisis of confidence also revived broader questions about the very mission of the institution to fight poverty through development aid, defined shortly after World War II and which now some see as outdated.
The day of his nomination Zoellick acknowledged the deep staff divisions over the Wolfowitz scandal: “There is a lot of anxiety, some frustration and anger that’s been built up,” he said at a news conference.
A leading issue would be to “try to get a sense from people together about how we can build some consensus about the direction of the institution,” he said.
The president oversees about 10,000 staff serving in the bank’s Washington headquarters and in more than 100 country offices around the world.
Some World Bank critics said the next president needs to undertake a sweeping reform of the institution.