Today's date:
Spring 2005

On Development and Democracy

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, the former US Deputy Secretary of Defense, talked to NPQ when he was nominated to head the World Bank.

Washington — I believe deeply in the mission of the bank, which is helping people lift themselves out of poverty. In itself that is a noble mission. It is also something that is good for the whole world. When poverty is reduced, it is not only the poor who benefit. We all do.

I firmly believe that transparency, accountability and strong, effective governing institutions are key to development.

Civic society is key. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some development with less freedom, as in China, for example. I do think that, with a free people, you get more solidly based development.

Freedom and democracy are advanced when people live in prosperity and dignity. It doesn’t mean that economic development is a prerequisite for democracy, but it certainly helps.

The links go both ways. Political development supports economic development. Economic development supports political development. People say one has to come before the other. But I see them as two different streams and the more strongly they flow together, the more strong a society can be.

But the mission of the World Bank is economic development. If the Bank focuses on its basic mission — poverty reduction — it will have larger benefits. Poverty reduction is advanced best by improving education, improving health care, improving opportunity for women and others deprived of equal opportunity. It is also critically important to continue along the path started by James Wolfensohn, the current Bank president, of cutting down on corruption in developing countries by improving transparency and accountability. If you do all those things — and especially the latter, which pushes into the realm of institutional reform — you will support political development.