FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Paul Wolfowitz and Haiti

by BRIAN CONCANNON, Jr.

The controversy over World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and the payraise (to $193,590/year) to his Bank colleague and domestic partner, Shaha Riza, has focussed on the propriety of Mr. Wolfowitz’ involvement in the promotion and raise, and the apparent hypocrisy of Mr. Wolfowitz lecturing against corruption in World Bank borrower countries while engaging in questionable practices at the Bank (see a good article in the Washington Post by William Easterly). But there has been very little discussion about the propriety of an institution whose mission is to fight poverty to be paying anyone that much money, and the hypocrisy of the Bank in general telling poor countries to cut salaries for nurses and teachers while it paid such high staff salaries.

The absence of these issues from the debates may be explained by the absence of the voices of the Bank’s supposed constituents- the poor of Haiti and countries like it. The debates have been exclusively framed by relatively wealthy journalists, officials and policy makers living in relatively wealthy countries, with no input from the poor the Bank is supposed to be helping.

The World Bank compares the relative wealth of countries with a figure called per capita GNI (or Gross National Income), which is roughly a country’s annual wealth produced divided by the number of people living there. According to the Bank’s website, Haiti’s per capita GNI is $450, so on average 430 Haitians get by on Ms. Riza’s annual salary.

The World Bank does not release its general salary information, and although Ms. Riza’s salary is probably at the high end of the scale, it is a high scale to begin with. The Bank defends its salaries by saying that its employees live in expensive cities with high rents, and that it needs high salaries to attract the employees it wants- people with excellent resumes and world-class financial and management skills- who are also coveted by the private sector.

Although financial and management skills are vital to the successful operation of any financial institution, the World Bank is not just any bank- its success is supposed to be measured not by profits but by reducing poverty. The Bank has financial policies, but it also has political, moral and social policies: it tells poor governments how much they can spend on healthcare (and implicitly, how many citizens will die of preventable diseases), on education, clean water, roads, etc.

Solid analysis of the financial data is essential for making good economic, moral, political and social policy decisions, but the decisions require other skills as well, including an understanding of the implications of those policies beyond the spreadsheets. Someone making $193,000 year would have only a limited understanding of what healthcare cuts mean to the 430 Haitians struggling to getting by on their share of that amount, a share that leaves no room for health insurance.

I have no reason to doubt that the Bank’s employees do a good job of financial analysis, but there are plenty of reasons to doubt that the institution is effectively fulfilling its poverty-fighting missions. Many of its borrowers are poorer now than they were when the Bank started to help them. Global inequality, as well as death by preventable disease, increases every year. In recent years, countries that have had the opportunity to escape the Bank’s “help” have been willing to pay billions of dollars to do so.

This scandal might be a good opportunity for the Bank to reflect on what kind of an institution it is, and what kind of people it wants to attract. It may find that by emphasizing its mission over salary, that it can find people with the technical skills who are willing to accept as part of their compensation the knowledge that they are working to fight poverty.

BRIAN CONCANNON Jr. is a human rights lawyer and directs the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, www.ijdh.org

 

May 02, 2016
George Wuerthner
The Economic Value of Yellowstone National Park
Rivera Sun
Celebrating Mother Jones
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir and Postcolonialism
Mairead Maguire
Drop the Just War Theory
Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail