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Wolfowitz Elected 10th President of the World Bank

March 31, 2005 at 12:00 AM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, our newsmaker interview with Paul Wolfowitz, who will be the next president of the World Bank. The outgoing deputy defense secretary was confirmed today by the bank’s board of directors. Congratulations.


JIM LEHRER: You’re going to have to get used to being called Mr. President. Is that going to be a problem?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, we use first names, and I like that idea.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. Early on there was talk that this day might not ever come, that there was reaction, negative reaction to your selection in Europe and elsewhere. Did you ever have any doubts from the day you were — it was announced?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Oh, you can’t be certain about anything like this, but, you know, I think there’s a — I’ve reflected on it — I know my nomination is controversial. It’s hardly a secret that I would be — and I think it’s — I’m grateful that people came together in a consensus on this, and I’d like to think if they can come to a consensus on my nomination, then I think it shows the commitment of the mission of the bank to poverty reduction, and I’m hopeful we can get consensus on simpler issues than my nomination, so I’m looking forward to that.

JIM LEHRER: Did you understand why there was opposition to you?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Oh, yes, no question about it. I think a lot of it has to do with the controversies about the war, and frankly some of it has to do with caricature. But we can put that behind us. I think the other thing is, for some people, and I think it’s been a learning process on both sides for the last few weeks, because I’ve been so associated with one policy, I don’t think people sufficiently appreciated that I believe deeply in the mission of the bank, with poverty reduction and economic development, it’s something I’ve been close to at a number of points in my career, particularly when I was American Ambassador to Indonesia, and before that when I was working closely with the Philippines in the State Department.

And, you know, I think if we want to achieve the vision of a future that I think all of us dream of not just for Americans but for the whole world, there are a number of pieces that have to fit together, and reducing poverty has got to be one of the major pieces, and this is the institution that has the biggest responsibility in that area.

JIM LEHRER: You just mentioned the idea — one of the questions was that you were going to go in there as America’s man, as the Bush administration’s man, to carry out Bush administration policy to the World Bank, is that correct?



PAUL WOLFOWITZ: No. There might have been a fear. I think I’ve — I’ve done my best to try to calm that fear.

JIM LEHRER: What do you say to that?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: That I really understand they are different jobs and at different points in my career I have reported to different institutions; when you are dean of a faculty — and I don’t mean to compare it — it’s much smaller in scale — but then you report to 30 tenured faculty members, all of whom consider them your boss, and in this case I will report to 184 countries that are shareholders or clients of the bank and have a responsibility to all of them.

What is beautiful about it — and my former boss, George Shultz, said you’re going to an institution with a beautiful mission, that was his word — and what is beautiful about it is at the end of the day it’s something that people agree on. They agree on the goal. And it is U.S. policy to work to reduce poverty, and this president has made a lot of commitments to increasing our contribution in that area. But it’s a common mission, it’s a multilateral mission and I will be an international civil servant and I am looking forward to it.

JIM LEHRER: Are you prepared to make the tough decision when a situation comes before the bank where the United States has made its position well-known or you know for a fact that what the World Bank is liable to do is opposed by the United States to go ahead and do it anyhow?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I guess I’m known as somebody who has personal convictions, and when I form them, I believe in following them to the extent I’m a free agent, and I’m not a free agent because my board instructs me to do something — doesn’t matter what I think; it doesn’t matter what the U.S. Government thinks, if the board has come to a decision. I actually, when I was at the State Department 20 years ago, the United States opposed a loan to Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippines and the bank board voted for the loan — and I’m sure if I had been president at the time I would have implemented the policy of the board.

But I hope as much as possible these situations will be the exception rather than the rule; that the rule will be an attempt to find the consensus on what is the most effective way to lift the billions of people in the world who, a billion or so that still live on a dollar a day, another billion at two dollars a day, and conditions of the most crushing poverty. And I think everyone wants too see that succeed; there will be arguments about the west way to make it happen, but I think if you keep reminding people that that’s the goal, that’s the mission, I think those divisions will be less frequent.

JIM LEHRER: Why did you want this job?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Because I’m excited about the mission. I think in very broad terms about the interests of our country, the interest of the world, the kind of world I’d like my children and grandchildren to live in, and certainly a world in which a billion people live on a dollar a day is not a world that is going to be very good for anybody. And also when I’ve had the chance, and I saw it most recently visiting the tsunami-ravaged parts of Indonesia and Sri Lanka, there’s nothing more gratifying than feeling you’ve helped people in need. It’s I think why a lot of people stay in development work or government work of various kinds. It’s far greater than any material reward.

JIM LEHRER: Do you go into this job with either a list or something in your head about what you want to accomplish within the bank itself; in other words, do you think there’s some reorganization or some major changes within the way the bank itself does business?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, for better or worse, I go into it with quite an open mind. I mean, I know, I think I’m familiar with a wide range of issues that the bank has to confront. I think I’d be very foolish to have a dogmatic view on any of these things. There’s a lot to learn and a lot of things to balance. I’d say one view I come in with, and I found this is a consensus, is that while it’s a global institution and it has responsibilities for the poor around the world, and my friends in Asia remind me there are more poor people in Asia than any other continent, but Africa is a priority for the bank and the bank is a critical institution for Africa.

JIM LEHRER: Lay that out. Why?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think because you find many of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa, because you find poverty compounded by these incredibly degrading conditions caused by HIV AIDS and by malaria. And also, at least in my perspective, I think other people would probably share this, we’ve seen an incredible progress in East Asia, in Latin America, unfortunately not as much in the Middle East, but incredible progress in other parts of the world that while there are still hundreds of millions of people living in degrading poverty, nevertheless, China, India, even Indonesia, major countries in Latin America are moving forward; you can see them on a path of progress. And though there are pockets in Africa that are exceptions to this, Africa seems to be left behind. I think it’s terribly important for Africans and for the world to get Africa onto the same kind of path.

JIM LEHRER: And you will continue that priority?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Absolutely, at the same time that I remind people I understand it’s a global institution, but yes, I think that is got to be — and I’m impressed actually that other developing countries say, yes, we’re important but we accept that Africa is the number one priority of the bank.

JIM LEHRER: How do you fit the World Bank into the institutions like the United Nations and others? Where does it fit in terms of having the ability and the resources to make a difference in all these things you’ve been talking about?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, it fits in a complex — mosaic may be too fancy a word — but there’s the U.N., there are the various regional banks, multiple countries that are major donors, the United States is often not the biggest donor in many countries. I saw this firsthand when I was ambassador in Indonesia in the 1980’s, which is a major recipient of World Bank assistance. The largest part of my embassy was our AID mission and you could see every day how the World bank was the leader in coordinating the efforts of multiple donors, bringing a certain rationality into what otherwise could be a very confused picture, and very often providing the knowledge that other donors, especially the smaller countries that didn’t have the same level of expertise. But even the United States, with all of our resources, we were frequently going to the World Bank for expertise on everything from agricultural — technical agricultural skills to macroeconomic assistance.

JIM LEHRER: Do you have any personal goals that you bring into this job?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I enjoy working in organizations and making them effective when I believe in their mission; I believe in this mission. I was dean of an academic institution for seven years, and I think it was great when I came, Johns Hopkins; I think it was better when I left. And that’s a simple way to put the goal, but I really hope that I can look back when I leave this job feeling that the institution and the world, because, talk about a team effort, this is going to be a team effort — this is a team effort — but that somehow I contributed to making that team successful in this incredible mission of helping poor people and helping all of us in the process.

JIM LEHRER: Much has been made, of course, always that you are a “political conservative.” How does that relate to this, to being president of the World Bank?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, I could argue whether I fit into any cubbyhole or not–


PAUL WOLFOWITZ: — but, you know, let me say this, I think that if you want to say there’s a “conservative view” of the whole issue of development assistance, and I’m not sure I buy into any doctrine, but it tends to emphasize — and I agree with this part of it –that development involves really three things and assistance is one thing, but trade access is at least as important. And perhaps more important than any is creating a climate where private investment, especially indigenous, domestic private investment is encouraged. You have to have all three things together. But I don’t think that’s the conservative view any more, I think it’s close to being a consensus view. I think the other thing is that I believe that part of the mission of the president of the bank, of the bank as a whole is to encourage greater generosity by donor nations. I think if we want the taxpayers of donor nations to be more generous with what they do, they need some convincing that the aid they give is used effectively, and the record there could be improved, and I hope I can improve on it.

JIM LEHRER: One final question has to do with the earlier story about today’s report on intelligence on Iraq. One of the things that’s in the report, critical obviously as we just heard of the intelligence community, there was also some questions raised about officials, including not you by name, but officials who were consumers of this information, didn’t ask tough enough questions, didn’t ask for alternative views and all of that, is that a fair criticism?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I’m constantly asking for alternative views on most things that come to me. I think the best I remember it, there was such an extraordinary consensus across administrations, across countries, but remember at the end of the day, what — the policy that was arrived at with U.N. Resolution 1441 didn’t assume anything about the intelligence; it said we don’t know what’s there, it’s Saddam’s responsibility to tell us what’s there, to declare everything without lying, which he didn’t do, and to not obstruct the inspectors who go in to verify, which he also didn’t do — and that was supposed to be his 17th and final chance. That’s ultimately I would say the policy attempted, one can argue imperfectly, but attempted to take account of uncertainty.

JIM LEHRER: So you have no question that you asked the right questions — this report isn’t talking about you?

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: I don’t think so, but none of us are perfect.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. Well, again Mr. Wolfowitz, Mr. President, congratulations —

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: President-elect.

JIM LEHRER: President-elect congratulations.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ: Well, thank you very much, it’s a big responsibility.