James Chapman – Daily Mail.co.uk May 18, 2007
Tony Blair may be asked to head the World Bank after its president quit in a sleaze row.
One of America’s top economists today revealed that the retiring prime minister is being considered as a replacement for disgraced Paul Wolfowitz.
Nobel prize-winner Joe Stiglitz, a former senior vice president at the World Bank, said: "He is one of the people that is clearly being discussed."
Mr Blair is expected to cash in on his international contacts after quitting Downing Street on 27 June and his agent said he would quit as an MP if "a big international job" came up.
Mr Stiglitz said the World Bank would probably prefer an economist with experience in development - which some pundits argue effectively rules out the prime minister, who has often admitted to being shaky at maths.
Nevertheless, Prof Stiglitz said: "He is one of the people that is clearly being discussed.
"I think it would be good for the institution at this juncture if they had somebody who was an economist who really understood what development was entailed and could work closely with the staff that has been very alienated by Paul Wolfowitz over the last two years and bring together the institution.
"It wouldn't rule (Blair) out but I would say that if I were going through a first priority list of priorities it would probably begin with somebody with real experience in development.
"But Blair has clearly been a political leader that has the kinds of connections that one needs, that would be useful as head of the institution."
Embattled World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz agreed to quit last night over a favouritism row involving his girlfriend.
The move ended weeks of intense pressure on the former U.S. deputy defence secretary, a close ally of President Bush and an architect of the Iraq war.
He had faced furious criticism after details emerged of his role in securing a promotion and pay rise for his partner, Oxford-educated Shaha Riza, when he joined the bank in 2005.
Bank sources said Mr Wolfowitz will leave on June 30 with a £200,000 pay-off and a face-saving compromise in which the bank takes part of the blame for the scandal.
They said the bank accepted it should have sorted out the details of a deal which moved Miss Riza to the State Department before Mr Wolfowitz actually took over.
The terms of her pay rise and promotion should have been set by the personnel department and not left to the bank president.
Mr Wolfowitz’s depsaidarture was announced as a key ally of Gordon Brown, Tom Scholar, faced similar claims of using his World Bank post to secure promotion for his girlfriend.
Mr Scholar, who was the Chancellor’s private secretary, is tipped for a top job in Downing Street when Mr Brown becomes premier.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an email it said was sent to bank bosses last year by an unnamed colleague.
It said: "Please know that UK ED (executive director) Tom Scholar is continuing an affair with (a bank employee).
"This woman has been given preferential treatment in (the department) because of her relationship with this powerful ED, this affair is well-known, and is in violation of the bank staff rules and the board’s standards of conduct."
The newspaper, which has supported Mr Wolfowitz throughout the controversy, another complaint, possibly-from the same person, was filed this week.
It claimed: "Mr Scholar has used his privileged position as an executive director to influence bank staff to manipulate Ms –’s job description in a way to suit her limited professional qualification.
"Without Mr Scholar’s intervention she would clearly not occupy her present position. Several staff members have reported these facts ... these complaints have been ignored."
Mr Scholar, 37, is a member of the board that oversees the work of the bank and had been deliberating Mr Wolfowitz’s fate. He firmly denied any wrongdoing.
He insisted: "There is no conflict of interest. As an executive director, representing my government at the World Bank, rather than a member of staff or management, I do not have any supervisory responsibility for bank staff beyond the five in my immediate office.
"I am not the supervisor of my partner, either directly or indirectly. We have never come into professional contact and I have made arrangements to avoid any possibility of professional contact.
"Since I am not a member of staff or management, I could never be involved in any individual personnel decision affecting her. And I have never discussed or made reference to any such issue with anyone who could possibly be involved."
There were suspicions that he may be the victim of a smear campaign by supporters of Mr Wolfowitz, who believed he was forced out unfairly by European governments.
Last updated 21/05/2007