An international activist group staged a rally outside the World Bank Wednesday, demanding that the development institution's president, Paul Wolfowitz, be fired for admitting he arranged a job and inflated salary for his girlfriend.
"Paul Wolfowitz has run the bank, like he ran and helped run the Iraq war, relying on political cronies, ignoring experts, alienating other countries, acting unilaterally," said Ben Wikler, campaign director for Avaaz.org, a global advocacy group funded by philanthropist and financier George Soros, MoveOn.org and the labor group SEIU.
"And as we now know, allowing corruption and hypocrisy to flourish amidst high-minded rhetoric," said Wikler, referring to Wolfowitz's role in securing his girlfriend a lucrative job at the State Department, with a salary higher than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's.
Unfurling a banner reading: 'World to Bank: Fire Wolfowitz', about two dozen activists stood behind the banner holding up flags from countries around the world, chanting, "unless he quits, fire Wolfowitz!".
"We're a small group of folks representing the 51,779 people from every corner of the world who have signed an online petition calling on the World Bank's board to fire Paul Wolfowitz," Wikler said into a blowhorn.
"He's fighting to keep his position instead of focusing on what's best for the world's poor, which is what the institution is supposed to be focused on," he said.
World Bank Employees Say Morale is Low
At a nearby park outside the World Bank, employees on their lunch break watched the rally and voiced mixed feelings about the controversy surrounding Wolfowitz.
"Everybody is demoralized, we all want a swift resolution," said Mark, a World Bank staffer who refused to give his last name.
Some employees walked with a blue ribbon on their briefcases and purses, given to them by their staff association to signify that 'good governance' is still a key principle at the World Bank.
"I represent a lot of the bank staff and I think we're all pretty discouraged about it," said a World Bank performance manager who wouldn't give his name because he was told not to talk to reporters. "It's caused a lot of harm to the bank and especially to morale," he said, arguing Wolfowitz is selfish for not stepping down.
Some employees said because of the scandal, staff whose job it is to fight corruption in developing nations are being laughed off. Meanwhile, European nations and other donors are threatening to withhold financing to the institution if Wolfowitz doesn't go.
"He's been standing on this pillar about anti-corruption and governance and it's kind of hypocritical," said the World Bank performance manager.
However, another World Bank employee said he felt sorry for Wolfowitz.
"He doesn't deserve this," said a South African economist who has worked for the World Bank for two years.
"I think those European countries and some major donors, they've always been looking for excuses not to contribute to the coffers of the World Bank," he said. "Now they seem to have found some kind of an escape goat so that they can cite it as a reason not to contribute."