Hungry like the Wolfowitz

Alex Wong/Getty Images Finance ministers from around the world recently gathered here in Washington for spring meetings held by the IMF and World Bank. Topic A on the the cocktail chatter circuit was not foreign aid, however, but to what extent World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz made arrangements for pay raises and promotions for his ...

602526_070417_wolfowitz_05.jpg
602526_070417_wolfowitz_05.jpg

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Finance ministers from around the world recently gathered here in Washington for spring meetings held by the IMF and World Bank. Topic A on the the cocktail chatter circuit was not foreign aid, however, but to what extent World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz made arrangements for pay raises and promotions for his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza. The general consensus in town seems to be that there was indeed something fishy about the situation.

Besides some finance ministers from Africa who appreciate the funding they've received under Wolfowitz's tenure, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and the Bush administration—which apparently still thinks Wolfie is doing a heckuva job—the World Bank president has had few defenders. That is, until now. The LA Times published a scathing editorial today by Ruth Wedgwood of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Wedgwood writes:

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Finance ministers from around the world recently gathered here in Washington for spring meetings held by the IMF and World Bank. Topic A on the the cocktail chatter circuit was not foreign aid, however, but to what extent World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz made arrangements for pay raises and promotions for his girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza. The general consensus in town seems to be that there was indeed something fishy about the situation.

Besides some finance ministers from Africa who appreciate the funding they’ve received under Wolfowitz’s tenure, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and the Bush administration—which apparently still thinks Wolfie is doing a heckuva job—the World Bank president has had few defenders. That is, until now. The LA Times published a scathing editorial today by Ruth Wedgwood of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. Wedgwood writes:

The authors of this acrid affair have nakedly forgotten the standards of fairness and due process owed Riza, who is a member of the bank staff association and entitled to its fiduciary protections.”

Wedgwood argues that as an experienced professional fluent in three languages, Riza had the right to be compensated for any loss of income incurred while she was transferred out of the World Bank. Wedgwood concludes:

It is hard to square the record with the entertaining claim that the World Bank’s president somehow concocted a do-nothing job for his girlfriend. It’s a bum rap, and one that women professionals in dual-career families might worry about.”

Point taken, but c’mon. Sure, it’s unfair that many female professionals have to put their careers temporarily on hold because their mates’ jobs take precedence. But that speaks to a larger societal problem with women in the workplace, not to the problem happening right now at the World Bank. Riza could have ended her relationship with Wolfowitz to keep working at the World Bank. Or Wolfowitz could have chosen not to accept the World Bank job so he could spare Riza the interruption in her career. Why should the World Bank be responsible for compensating her? Do they compensate every employee who transfers out for a similar reason? Would Wolfowitz go to bat for other women and men under his employ who may have had to temporarily step out of their career path because their spouse worked in the same office, or they took time off to have a kid?

Christine Y. Chen is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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