Wolfowitz not to preach democracy at World Bank

Jakarta, March 28 | Updated: Mar 29 2005, 05:30am hrs
Paul Wolfowitz, Washington's controversial pick to head the World Bank, has pledged to be an international civil servant if confirmed in the job and said he would not to use it as a platform to preach democracy.

The former ambassador to Indonesia and a key figure in the US-led invasion of Iraq said in an interview published in the Jakarta Post newspaper on Monday he would concentrate on poverty reduction with a special focus on Africa. If I am confirmed I will be an international civil servant. I will be president of a multilateral organisation with 184 member nations, Wolfowitz said.

I am very aware that I am accountable to a different group of people than I am in my current job...The job of the president of the bank is to pull together the most effective possible consensus.

Wolfowitz, who is currently deputy secretary of defence in the administration of President George W Bush, has proven a controversial choice because of his role in planning the 2003 Iraq invasion that was bitterly opposed by many European countries and the Muslim world. However, approval by the bank's board, which operates by consensus, is likely a foregone conclusion and is expected by the end of this month. Washington has the largest voting share on the 24-member board and traditionally nominates the president.

Asked if he would use his position to promote democracy, Wolfowitz said: I think people know what I think on that subject, but I think I'll be more effective if I concentrate on those things that lead to poverty reduction and economic development.

Wolfowitz said while issues of corruption and governance were not easy to separate from democracy, he would focus on getting donors to be more generous, developed countries to open their markets and developing nations to tackle corruption. He said the bank had made Africa a special priority.

In part that's because some of the most horrible conditions of poverty in the world, compounded by the severe health epidemics, are to be found in Africa, Wolfowitz said.