Tuesday, May 22, 2007
(IPS) - The World Bank has just appointed a new country head for Iraq despite security and corruption concerns, according to a leaked document. The news emerged just days after outgoing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz promised not make any major new appointments at the institution.
The Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based watchdog group, released an email it says it obtained from sources inside the Bank showing Daniela Gressani, vice president for the Middle East and North Africa Region, making the announcement. "I am pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Simon Stolp as Country Manager, Iraq," said Gressani in her email, a copy of which was seen by IPS. A World Bank official in the Middle East department who wished to remain unidentified confirmed the news to IPS.
Stolp, an Australian national, worked previously in Iraq as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defence where he supported changes in the Iraqi electricity sector. In 2005, he was awarded the Joint Civilian Service Award by the Pentagon, which is granted to civilians who demonstrate high service "supporting the U.S. military". A report issued in December by a seven-member panel of Bank experts who interviewed candidates for the job in Iraq said that after meeting Stolp, "the panel left uncomfortable as to whether he could become a credible, substantive (as compared to procedural) representative of Bank with Iraqi and Donor counterparts, on account of his weak analytical background, and lack of knowledge about the Bank."
The panel added: "Compared with candidates on other CM [Country Manager] short lists (e.g. Lebanon), Mr. Stolp would not place in the top third." The Bank has not had a major presence inside Iraq since a bombing on Aug. 19, 2003 claimed the lives of Bank staffer Alya Sousa and 21 U.N. employees at the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Since then, the Bank's operational work in Iraq has relied on regular meetings with Iraqis outside of Iraq and use of the Bank's videoconferencing facilities in Baghdad.
The World Bank runs its operation through the Bank's Interim Office for Iraq, which is based in Amman, Jordan. The office employs Iraqis for operations inside the country. The new appointment, which has not yet been formally announced by the Bank, appears to confirm what many analysts have long suspected about Wolfowitz's relentless attempts to move the Bank back into Iraq -- and to boost U.S. policy there -- despite internal opposition and the continuing high security risk.