Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Anwar's Ally Now Battling For Survival After Pay Scandal

While Former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is battling it out to win some votes for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in Saturday's Ijok by-election, his longtime ally Paul Wolfowitz is battling for survival as World Bank President.

There have been mounting calls for Wolfowitz's resignation after it was discovered that he had approved a promotion and hefty pay rise for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, an employee at the World Bank, before she was assigned to work at the U.S. State Department.

Yesterday, the European Parliament asked Wolfowitz, a former Deputy Secretary of Defence in the Bush administration and one of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, to go after having voted 333-251 with 31 abstentions.

Viewed against the backdrop of nepotism and hypocrisy, the vote also carried a paragraph stating that Wolfowitz's withdrawal from his post at the World Bank would be a welcome step towards preventing the bank's anti-corruption policy from being undermined.

Wolfowitz's anti-corruption campaign rang hollow recently after he was found to have acted in the decision to raise Shaha Riza's annual pay package from US$133,000 to US$193,590, said to be even US$7,000 higher than the salary of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

European countries, including Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and France have said that Wolfowitz is dragging the World Bank into disrepute and further undermining the credibility of its anti-corruption policy.

There have been suggestions by European parliamentarians that if Wolfowitz "won't jump himself, he must be pushed."

The latest call by the EU assembly comes as a special World Bank committee is examining whether Wolfowitz had abused his position or committed ethical lapses.

Wolfowitz, the son of Polish immigrants to New York, has apologised for his handling of Shaha Riza's promotion and pledged to make changes to his management.

When it was announced in March 2005 that Wolfowitz would become World Bank chief, some 92 per cent of 1,300 of the bank's employees who responded to a quick survey viewed the appointment negatively.

But the White House has reiterated its support for the former Yale lecturer despite the intensifying calls for his resignation.

Not too long ago when Anwar was released from jail, he flew to Germany for medical treatment. And Wolfowitz took time off to meet him.

In April 2005, the John Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) hired Anwar as a visiting scholar. Wolfowitz had been a Dean of SAIS before he became Deputy Secretary of Defence.

In 2005, Anwar had praised Wolfowitz's impending appointment to head the World Bank, saying that the latter "passionately believes in freedom, and understands the issues of poverty, environment degradation, living conditions and health issues which are a very much a World Bank agenda."

But many will not forget that Wolfowitz, described as having an excessively blunt managerial style, is one of the chief architects of the massive US bombardment of Iraq, a move which has still not brought peace to that war-torn country.

And his reputation may be further tarnished if he is eventually shown the door at the World Bank.