How Wolfowitz Is Struggling to Lead the World Bank

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Paul Wolfowitz is used to getting his own way. As deputy defense secretary, Wolfowitz helped plan the U.S. invasion of Iraq; as a central figure in the Bush Administration's neoconservative camp, the former ambassador to Indonesia was one of the chief architects of the White House's ambitious and controversial plan to reshape the Middle East. When Wolfowitz took over as the president of the World Bank last year, he told TIME he would be "results driven."

But Wolfowitz is fast discovering that getting your way and getting results at one of the world's most powerful and complicated multilateral development agencies is no easy task. At a meeting in Singapore on Monday, the Bank's shareholder governments agreed to Wolfowitz's anti-corruption strategy but only if they oversee its management. Wolfowitz had wanted the Bank to disburse loans and grants based on the recipients' anti-corruption efforts, but the 24 members of the Development Committee, the World Bank's governing body, also insisted that the Bank use incentives rather than threaten sanctions to induce good behavior. The Bank's focus, stated the Development Committee, will remain on promoting good governance rather than merely going after corruption.

The decision was engineered by European and developing countries who worry that Wolfowitz has become obsessed with corruption to the exclusion of other issues. They were angry last year when Wolfowitz suspended $1 billion worth of projects in Bangladesh, Chad, Congo, Ethiopia, India and Kenya because of corruption. The funding resumed after countries agreed to implement anti-graft safeguards — measures that Wolfowitz's critics called window dressing.

European leaders argue that Wolfowitz's decision didn't take into account the circumstances that some countries faced — Congo, for instance, is recovering from a civil war. The Europeans are also critical of the Bank's recent move to measure the quality of governance in countries. European Union development boss Louis Michel told the Development Committee that such a qualitative ranking of countries had limited use. Development needs "dialogue and positive incentives rather than sanctions and conditionality," Michel told the Committee. "Governance can not be limited to fight against corruption. It would be inefficient, superficial and non-sustainable."

At the end of Monday's meeting Wolfowitz said there was "a lot accomplished." But, he conceded, improving governance was a long-term project that will "take place over time, not happen overnight." Just like getting your own way, sometimes.