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Paul Wolfowitz is the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, whom President George Bush has nominated to head the World Bank. He spoke with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels on Thursday, March 17 in Washington.

Nathan Gardels: What is your general philosophy of development? For example, do you agree with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen that freedom and "political rights" are key to development? His famous thesis is that there has never been a famine where there is democracy.

Others have argued that transparency is equally critical to development in order to end corruption that wastes and mismanages resources, a lesson of the Asian financial crisis.

Paul Wolfowitz: 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. 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.

Gardels: Do you agree with the idea of outright grants instead of loans to the poorest nations so that they can avoid a debt trap down the road?

Wolfowitz: If I am confirmed as president of the World Bank, my job will be to form an effective consensus among different views, not to represent any one government or one group. There are markedly different views on this issue. I just discussed this with Bono (the U2 lead singer). It is remarkable how deeply that man has thought through some of these problems.

I don't know what that consensus might be, though I suspect it will end up being a balance of these two approaches. That would be the right answer for the institution.

What I am certain of is that my job as president of the bank would be to encourage donor nations to do more for the poor and make sure what they give is used effectively.

Gardels: Do you support the Millennium Development Goals set out by the U.N. to halve poverty by the year 2015? Is that realistic?

Wolfowitz: Any reasonable person would support those goals. How you get there is the question. They are pretty demanding, ambitious goals. All I know is that, if I get to lead the World Bank, I will do everything I can to move toward those goals as fast as possible.

Gardels: In your mind, is the link between regime change in Iraq and development generally the "transformational world view" — that is, that both poverty and terrorism are best defeated by the spread of democracy?

Wolfowitz: The links go both ways, as I said earlier. 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 of those things — and especially the latter, which pushes into the realm of institutional reform — you will support political development.

Gardels: Anything else you would say to skeptics on the World Bank governing board who have to vote on your nomination?

Wolfowitz: I am a very good listener. And I understand that if I become president of the World Bank, I am accountable to all of the members, not just the United States.

(c) 2005, Global Viewpoint
Distributed by Tribune Media ServiceS, INC. (Distributed 3/17/05)