Sunday, April 15

Aboard the Black Pearl with Paul Wolfowitz

Whereupon Pundita hatches an Eleventh Hour plan to save Wolfy's job --


Paul Wolfowitz, World Bank President, as Captain of the Black Pearl

Hilary Benn, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development, as First Mate

Thierry Breton, France's Minister of Economy, Finance, and Industry, Second Mate

Peer Steinbrück, Germany's Minister of Finance, Third Mate

Hilary Benn: Pundita, I refuse to wear this ridiculous eye patch -- ow! the damn monkey just bit me!

Pundita: [soothingly] You make a very convincing pirate.

Paul Wolfowitz: I don't think I look as good in braids as Johnny Depp and the eyeliner is making my eyes water. I can't read my cue cards!

Pundita: [soothingly] Just remember you have top billing.

Thierry Breton: I get to play second mate!

Peer Steinbrück: No, I'm second mate!

Thierry Breton: No, I'm --

Pundita: All right, places everyone! Action!

[Long shot of the Black Pearl somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. Cut to medium shot of the cast of characters on deck. Second and Third Mates hold Captain Wolfowitz at swordpoint while First Mate Benn pats the monkey perched on his shoulder and sneers at Wolfy]

"A long, long time ago as news cycles go -- almost two years ago -- London was hit by a series of terrorist bombings. The next day, in a gesture of solidarity and sympathy with Britain, which had been pushing radical debt relief for hopelessly indebted poor countries, the G8 Ministers gathered at Gleneagles, Scotland made a stunning promise:

They agreed to forgive 100% of the $40 billion in debts owed by 18 HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries). The debts were owed to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Fund.

In the midst of back-clapping and handshakes, someone at the summit thought to mention that unless the World Bank was compensated for writing off the tens of billions in bad debt, the Bank wouldn't be able to finance ever more loans to the poorest nations.

The leaders of the G8 countries immediately promised to compensate the Bank "dollar for dollar" for the canceled repayments. The promise contained a loophole, however: the leaders at the G8 summit did not specify how much their country would contribute. The promise pretty much fizzled.

In early March of this year, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz launched a campaign to hold the G8 governments to their promise. He wanted them to cough up close to $30 billion within a year for the World Bank. This, so that IDA (the Bank's International Development Association) three-year lending programs from 2008 for the poorest nations would be fully funded.

Britain, which already carries 60% of the funding for the IDA, groused that the United States should come up with the biggest share of the replenishment funds. The U.S. Treasury didn't see it that way, and neither did President Bush or anyone else in official Washington.

Then, by amazing coincidence, The Washington Post received some World Bank documents pertaining to the deal that Paul Wolfowitz worked out for his domestic partner and Bank employee, Shaha Ali Riza.

Ms. Riza was farmed out to the U.S. Department of State on a World Bank salary when Paul Wolfowitz came on board at the Bank as president. This happened because World Bank officials said that the two couldn't have any professional contact whatsoever at the Bank because of Bank rules.

The hairsplitting over the somewhat arcane Cone of Authority rule at the Bank upset Wolfy. He dug in his heels and refused to remove himself from all contacts with Riza at the Bank. The Bank mandarins dug in their heels in defense of their reading of the COA rule. Then Riza dug in her heels; she was mad that her career had to take a tumble just because her SO was the boss at the Bank.

The upshot was that Wolfy ordered the Bank's personnel department to give a big salary and annual raises to Riza while she was at State and to give her big promotions when she could return to work at the Bank. The size of the deal infuriated the World Bank Staff Association.

At first the publication of the internal documents didn't receive much public interest in the US, but it set off an uproar in Europe. In an effort to get out his side of the story, Wolfowitz instructed that all 109 pages of documentation pertaining to the deal be released. That only added to the furor and created more confusion about who at the Bank instructed whom to do what to resolve Riza's problem.

Today, the IMF and World Bank boards are taking a break from their usual business at the Spring meeting to discuss Paul Wolfowitz's fate at the Bank. While it's unlikely that the Bank board will fire Wolfy, they can force him to resign. Meanwhile, out at sea --

[Wolfy to Benn]: This is my ship, you dastardly mutineer!

Benn: [snickering] What self-respecting pirate captain lets hisself be tricked by World Bank mandarins?

Breton and Steinbrück: Aaaaaar! [prodding Wolfy onto the ship's plank] This fool deserves to walk the plank!

Wolfy to Benn: Wait! You got hold of those documents and leaked them!

Benn: On my oath as a pirate, I did not leak documents to The Washington Post!

Wolfy: Okay, you leaked them to the State Department and they leaked them to the Post!

Benn: [roaring] Lies, all lies! Off to the deep you go!

[Breton and Steinbrück use their swords to prod Wolfy farther out on the plank]

Wolfy: Pundita, I can't remember -- [the mates prod him farther] Wait! [Shrieking] Parley! I invoke the pirate's Right of Parley!

Breton and Steinbrück: [chanting in unison] He invokes the right to parley!

Benn: Make it snappy.

Wolfy: I promise to ask Henry Paulson --

Benn: Overboard he goes, mates!

Wolfy: Wait! I promise to beg Henry to okay a replenishment to the Bank of USD four billion --

[The monkey chatters furiously and the mates prod Wolfy to the edge of the plank]

Wolfy: Fifteen billion?

Benn: On your oath as a pirate?

Wolfy: A promise is a promise, as you know.

Benn to Breton: Hand me the satphone.

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