World Bank president Zoellick steps down on June 30

Rappler.com
Under his watch, World Bank focused on fighting corruption and transparency

MANILA, Philippines – As the end of his 5-year term as president of the World Bank approaches, Robert B. Zoellick announced on Wednesday, February 15 (Thursday in Manila) that he is stepping down on June 30.

Zoellick, 58, became the 11th president of the multilateral lender on July 1, 2007 after his stint as managing director at Goldman Sachs.

“I’m honored to have led such a world class institution with so many talented and exceptional people. Together we have focused on supporting developing countries to navigate crises and adjust to global economic shifts,” he said in a statement released by the bank.  

Under his leadership, the bank further transformed into a more transparent anti-poverty group by opening up its rich database of processes, projects and data through its Open Data Initiative.

He also pushed for more anti-corruption focus with a new sanctions policy and a preventative unit. Both aim to ensure that funds lent out do not land in wrong hands.

It was these new policies that led to the naming and shaming of hundreds of private firms that have stepped beyond ethical and legal lines when doing business with projects funded by the World Bank. These policies led to the uncovering of the controversial road projects that dragged former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo in 2009.

A World Bank report cited testimonies of withnesses whose construction firms were blacklisted by World Bank for bribing government officials. The witnesses told World Bank probers that they enjoyed the backing of Mr. Arroyo.

Recently, Rappler reported about an aide memoir that World Bank wrote to Philippine government officials regarding a judicial reform program that the World Bank had extended a US$21.9 million to.

The World Bank was asking the Supreme Court to return by the end of January P8.6 million that the High Tribunal  spent on “ineligible” transactions or activities and projects not covered by the loan agreement. The issue is still going through a review process.  

More women and crises 

Under Zoellick’s watch, half of senior officers are now women and almost half are from developing countries.

The bank played a role during the global economic crisis, using record replenishments to provide more than $247 billion to help developing countries boost growth and overcome poverty.

“The Bank has recognized that we live in a world of multiple poles of growth where traditional concepts of the “Third World” are now outdated and where developing countries have a key role to play as growth drivers and responsible stakeholders. At the same time, we’ve scaled up our support to poor people, countries, and communities and shown that the Bank can be an indispensable innovator, catalyst, and driver of a modernized multilateralism,” said Zoellick.

“The Bank is now strong, healthy and well positioned for new challenges, and so it is a natural time for me to move on and support new leadership,” he added.

Zoellick last visited Manila in October 2011 where he talked about, among others, the state of the food prices amid growing inflation fears then.

– Rappler.com