Wed, Jun 27, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Zoellick named as World Bank's next president

AFP , WASHINGTON

The World Bank on Monday approved Robert Zoellick as its next president as the 185-country development lender moved to distance itself from a scandal that cost it credibility around the world.

Zoellick, 53, who is a vice chairman at investment bank Goldman Sachs, is to take office on Sunday. A well-known consensus builder, he faces the task of rebuilding trust in the development lender that cracked under president Paul Wolfowitz.

Wolfowitz was forced to resign following a troubled two-year tenure after the bank found he had violated rules in arranging a lavish pay-and-promotion package for his female companion, a bank employee.

He steps down on Saturday.

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.

"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.

He was unanimously approved for a five-year term as the 11th president of the bank, the 24-member executive board said in a statement.

Under an unwritten agreement, the US picks the head of the bank and European countries select the leader of the IMF.

Bush issued a statement welcoming the announcement.

"Bob Zoellick is a dynamic leader who is deeply committed to the mission of the World Bank in helping struggling nations to defeat poverty, grow their economies, strengthen transparency and accountability in governance, and offer their people the prospect of a better life," Bush said.

The lengthy scandal that led to the resignation of Wolfowitz had divided staff and cast a cloud over the credibility of the bank.

The day of his nomination Zoellick acknowledged deep staff divisions over the scandal, saying, "There is a lot of anxiety, some frustration and anger that's been built up."

The president oversees about 10,000 staff serving in the bank's Washington headquarters and in more than 100 country offices around the world.

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.

Some World Bank critics said the next president needs to undertake a sweeping reform of the institution.

"Zoellick must begin a series of reforms in his first 100 days to create a new deal between the bank and the world's poor," said Jeremy Hobbs, executive director of Oxfam International.

"We can't continue with business as usual," Hobbs said.

The World Bank president serves a renewable, five-year term.

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