Zoellick’s new structure to speed development agenda

20/10/2007 | Jon Marks

New WB boss winning friends with charm offensive

World Bank boss Robert Zoellick has arrived at his first annual meetings already having made his mark with policy shifts, new appointments and a more consensual management style. Zoellick has moved quickly across a range of issues – the mooted entry of private finance into the soft-lending International Development Association (IDA), a shift in emphasis towards aid-for-trade, a commitment to do more for Africa and Arab economies and the recruitment of the widely respected Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

With Okonjo-Iweala’s appointment, as a managing director (MD) focused on poorer countries, “we took a step to better align the structure of the institution with the strategy, because the regional units that Ngozi will supervize generally have a focus on some of the poorest”, Zoellick told reporters in Washington on Thursday.

In a new structure, two other MDs, Juan Jose Daboub and Graeme Wheeler, will focus on middle-income countries and the knowledge and learning agenda respectively.

Zoellick expanded on his attitude to management at a relaxed Center for Global Development (CGD) meeting at the Carnegie Endowment, emphasizing his belief in networks and interconnections.

In a clear shift in approach from his more ideological predecessor Paul Wolfowitz, Zoellick has introduced daily 08.30 meetings for his top 25 staff to “share information – it is not a long policy discussion, but it builds communication and builds communality”. Zoellick said that he asks “polite questions” and “people are now starting to come prepared.”

The aim is to overcome resistance to change, by “empowering people within a framework”, Zoellick said. “It takes a lot of effort to explain the direction and set objectives ... to get people to take up responsibility and accountability – and then take time and effort to work with people.”

Zoellick is developing his “six strategic themes” at the Annual Meetings: poverty and sustainable growth; post-conflict states; “development solutions” for middle income countries; global “public goods” (climate change, health, etc); a “knowledge and learning” agenda to make the Bank a brains trust. After less than three months in office, that shows a sure touch.

Zoellick’s evident mastery of the issues, and the silky political skills honed as US trade representative and deputy secretary of state, has helped win support, staffers and analysts said – unlike Wolfowitz, his fellow Bush administration stalwart. One senior staff member told Emerging Markets: “He’s obviously very keen to distance himself from the Wolfowitz style, and so far he’s made a faultless start.”

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