Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sam Rich's assessment of Jeffrey Sachs' millennium village project, and in support of Wolfowitz

Sam Rich has an assessment of Jeffrey Sachs' Millennium Village Project in the new Wilson Quarterly, although it does not seem to be online - available, anyway, in most college bookstores or libraries. I've read it and found it very sensible - I also recommend highly Tyler Cowen's summary of it at Marginal Revolution, here. I think Cowen somewhat overstates things in his formulation "wonderful but oversold" - the weaknesses in the model are more than just the fact that it is not readily scalable, as Rich's article makes clear.

I have favorably commented on Sachs' general approach to poverty reduction in the past couple of years on this blog. With the process of UN reform in 2005, however, I found myself much more focused on the Millennium Development Goals and what Sachs really means by them, once attached to his own targets and numbers and so on. When all this is translated into real policy, it looks a lot less attractive and a lot more like simply another Potemkin Village-Five Year Plan at which the UN already excels, to no point whatsoever. I am increasingly persuaded that William Easterly, who operates as Sachs' general critic, is right in emphasizing that poverty reduction in the world is essentially a retail, tactical, bit by by effort. Sachs, by contrast, seems to think that it can be solved at the grand strategic global level. The problem, however, seems to be a radical disconnect between plans at the strategic level and the ability to implement them at the tactical level. For his pains - because it runs counter to the command-and-control, left over central planning that the UN continues to love so much in its bureaucratic bones - Easterly is isolated within official circles as a curmudeonly dissenter, while Sachs is lionized. But the cold reality is that Sachs' grand plans have little to show for themselves except as plans - leaving the Millennium quota defenders to fall back inevitably on the claim that failure was due not to the plans being flawed, but by the failure of funders to hand over sufficient money. At bottom, this is Sachs' big claim, and Easterly's big skepticism.

That, and the fundamental question of political stability, the rule of law, property rights, transparency, decreasing corruption, and reducing rent seeking by government officials standing in the way of private direct investment in reducing poverty. Paul Wolfowitz has been smeared by his underlings and by European grandees, abetted by the media, and in particular in this country by the New York Times and Washington Post, whose reporting seems to consist not of actually reading underlying documents, but reproducing the whispering campaign against Wolfowitz.

For quite a while, I was too busy and distracted to do anything other than follow the stories as the NYT and WP issued them, and assumed that Wolfowitz had screwed up and put himself in this position. Then I went back and looked at the actual documentary history - and it suddenly looked really, really, really different. I can't see whereas Wolfowitz has anything to apologize for, and I hope the White House finds a little backbone and holds firm. Wolfowitz is right on the substance of the reforms he is pushing on an arrogant and recalcitrant World Bank, and hasn't done anything that he wasn't essentially told to do by the Bank's own ethics committee. This is a political smear, aided in no small part by media hacks at the Times and Washington Post who, so far as I can tell, can't read.

Ruth Wedgwood has it right, in an op ed originally appearing in the Los Angeles Times, but also running in the Dallas News. And she is especially right to point out how anti-professional-women the whole contrived scandal is - not that you would know it, once again, reading the Times and the Post. Excerpts:

Ruth Wedgwood: A bum rap at the World Bank

Wolfowitz and his partner had been rightly cleared before

Dallas News
09:08 AM CDT on Thursday, April 19, 2007

On taking office, World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz set two priorities for the world's premier development institution. He asked for a focus on Africa's persistent poverty, and he targeted corruption that diverts aid dollars from the poor.

African leaders endorsed this vision, but not all bank bureaucrats were thrilled by Mr. Wolfowitz or his policies. Still, any friend of the bank's work should be dismayed by the disruption caused by a manufactured scandal at a time when the bank needs to replenish its coffers. The imbroglio rattling the World Bank during its spring meeting of finance ministers is a rehash of its clumsy attempt to resolve the status of Shaha Ali Riza, a veteran bank professional and Mr. Wolfowitz's longtime romantic partner.

The authors of this acrid affair have nakedly forgotten the standards of fairness and due process owed Ms. Riza, who is a member of the bank staff association and entitled to its fiduciary protections. And the scandalmongers have recklessly ignored a written record of bank documents that serves not to condemn but to exculpate Mr. Wolfowitz.

Moreover, the case reveals the bank's executive board and its ethics committee as organs of haphazard judgment. In 2005, the ethics committee surprisingly denied Mr. Wolfowitz's written request that he be allowed to recuse himself from all decisions touching on Ms. Riza's status because of their relationship. Then it disqualified her from remaining at the bank yet insisted that she be compensated for this disruption to her career. Next, it insisted that Mr. Wolfowitz re-enter the chain of command to execute its advice concerning Ms. Riza. And now, board members apparently have criticized Mr. Wolfowitz for doing exactly what the ethics panel directed.

To be sure, news stories about Ms. Riza have revealed that the pay of World Bank staff far exceed what comparable professionals would earn elsewhere. The public rightly might be dismayed to learn that Ms. Riza and other World Bank "lead" professionals can earn from $132,000 to $232,000.

But this does not excuse a mob mentality that abuses the reputation of a particular female professional, much less a bank president. The internal documents released last week – at Mr. Wolfowitz's request – show that this slow-moving institution had no protocol for figuring out how to accommodate the career of a professional woman when her spouse or partner came to work in the same chain of command. This is becoming a more serious problem in today's workplace.

Ms. Riza was a veteran of the bank, working as a senior communications officer in the Middle East/North African public outreach program before Mr. Wolfowitz was picked as bank president in 2005. With more than 15 years' experience in the field, able to speak Arabic, English and French, she was short-listed for a senior-level job. The bank's ethics committee in July 2005 gave "informal" advice that Ms. Riza had to give up her eligibility for promotion and leave the bank. It acknowledged that this step would disrupt Ms. Riza's career for a substantial period. For a 52-year-old bank employee facing mandatory retirement at age 62, losing a promotion and a long period of service is not trivial. The ethics committee thus reasonably concluded that Ms. Riza should receive some compensation for her forced transfer.

According to the documents on the bank's Web site, it was the ethics committee's own idea to give Ms. Riza a promotion as she was being moved out for four years. She was transferred to the U.S. State Department to work on a grassroots democracy project that has been praised by Secretary Condoleezza Rice. She was given the mid-range salary for her new level.
It was certainly not a corrupt favor to a girlfriend.

All the facts were reviewed for a second time by the World Bank ethics committee last year, and again it found nothing wrong. The chairman of the ethics committee pronounced in a Feb. 28, 2006, letter that "the ethics committee decided that the allegations ... do not appear to pose ethical issues." It is hard to square the record with the entertaining claim that the World Bank's president somehow concocted a do-nothing job for his girlfriend. It's a bum rap, and one that female professionals in dual-career families might worry about.

Ruth Wedgwood is professor of international law and diplomacy at Johns Hopkins University's School for Advanced International Studies.

1 comment:

Ethics in Africa said...

Githongo Calls on Wolfowitz to Resign

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Asserting that Western admonitions about corruption to Africa and other developing regions are undermined by the misbehaviour of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, Kenya’s former permanent secretary for ethics and governance, Dr. John Githongo, has called on Wolfowitz to resign his post.

“Corruption in Western capitals and in international financial institutions can do little but fuel the cynicism of corrupt officials in Africa and elsewhere,” said Githongo in a statement prepared for the news media. “When Paul Wolfowitz uses his influence as a US Government official and as president of the World Bank to fill the purse of his paramour (and, by inference, to line his own pockets as well), one can hear the cackling from state houses and presidential palaces all across Africa.”

Githongo said: “Paul Wolfowitz should resign now, before his poor example and bad judgment are emulated by petty dictators and venal middle managers throughout the developing world.”

He added: “Wolfowitz, of all people, should know better than to use his office for enrichment. He should be ashamed of himself.”

Since being forced into exile by a hostile political climate in his native Kenya, John Githongo has been a fellow at St. Antony’s College at Oxford University. In February, he accepted an appointment at Queen’s University in Ontario as a research fellow at the International Development Research Centre, where he is collaborating on a major research initiative on Ethnicity and Democratic Governance.

For further information, contact John Githongo at