The World Bank's new President Robert Zoellick said he has sought to "calm the waters" during his first 100 days in charge at the poverty-fighting institution, after his predecessor, Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign amid turmoil. In a major policy speech Wednesday, Zoellick outlined a new direction for the World Bank, focusing on helping the poor. VOA's Cindy Saine reports from Washington.
The National Press Club's Secretary, Sylvia Smith, introduced Robert Zoellick as being just about everything Paul Wolfowitz was not, in her words, "an able diplomat, interested in the details of development." Zoellick has won praise from World Bank staff members for not hiring a single Bush administration recruit - unlike Wolfowitz, and for meeting with the bank's 24 vice presidents every morning - unlike Wolfowitz.
Marking his first three months in office, the 54-year-old respected former U.S. diplomat looked to the future. He said his vision for the World Bank is to contribute to an inclusive and sustainable globalization that helps the poor.
"Globalization offers incredible opportunities," said Robert Zoellick. "Yet exclusion, grinding poverty, and environmental damage create dangers. The ones that suffer most are those who have the least to start with - indigenous peoples, women in developing countries, the rural poor, Africans, and their children."
Zoellick said globalization must not leave out the "bottom billion" of the Earth's population. He said he wants the bank not only to help the world's poorest countries, but also to help the poor in emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil.
"You find 70 percent of the people living below two dollars a day in China, India and the other countries that classified as middle income," he said. "So if we are going to try to address the poor, we can't leave these people out."
Conservative critics argue that the World Bank no longer has a role to play in countries like China, that can easily finance development projects on their own. Adam Lerrick is a former investment banker who is now a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. He thinks Zoellick is taking the bank down the wrong path.
"Instead of recognizing that the bank has a limited role, if not no role, in middle-income countries that no longer need the bank's money and no longer want the bank's advice, and focusing instead on poor countries without access to private sector capital such as sub-Saharan Africa, he is trying to emphasize and increase dramatically the bank's business in the middle income countries," said Adam Lerrick.
Another one of the main goals Zoellick emphasized is getting the World Bank more involved in Arab countries, to boost economic opportunities and social stability.