Socialist Worker

Graft begins at home

Issue No. 2047

Corruption, poor governance and cronyism are supposed to be the evils that keep the Global South in poverty. Nobody has underlined that message more strongly than Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank.

Wolfowitz, former US assistant defence secretary, was a central architect of the US war against Iraq. He was the main mover in peddling lies about weapons of mass destruction.

Taking over at the World Bank was a further step towards the US’s attempt to dominate the globe through military and financial power. The bank has long beggared the poor, but not through such obvious methods as those Wolfowitz chose.

At the start of this week he was under pressure to resign after revelations of... corruption, poor governance and cronyism.

When Wolfowitz took over at the World Bank he was told it would create a conflict of interest as his girlfriend Shaha Riza was already employed there. So Wolfowitz personally ordered the bank’s director of personnel to raise her annual salary to $193,590—a $60,000 increase—while she was seconded to the US State Department. There her supervisor was the daughter of US vice-president Dick Cheney.

In a world where the corruption by Halliburton and similar contractors is the norm, such appointments must have seemed normal. But as the Iraq war becomes ever more disastrous, and the power of the US is increasingly contested, it is harder to get away with such crimes.

Price rises

Inflation at 4.8 percent

The retail price index measure of inflation hit a ten-year high of 4.8 percent this week. Even the measure favoured by the government now says inflation is 3.1 percent. The rise in prices makes the government’s 2 percent pay limit for public sector workers even more outrageous.

It’s time for action, and May Day is an excellent place to start. Everyone can do something to raise the level of resistance on 1 May.

Tony Woodley, general secretary of the T&G union, said in response to the inflation figures that, “Employers had better get used to the idea that our pay claims this year are aimed at winning workplace victories on pay so that workers can afford to meet their rising living costs.” Let’s turn such words into action.

Disappearing billions

Who are the robbers?

You may remember the case of Joyti De?Laurey, a secretary at Goldman Sachs who managed to secure more than £4 million from accounts that her three banker bosses held with the bank before anyone noticed.

However, that seems like loose change compared to a case soon to open in Geneva. A Swiss bank employee is charged with removing the small matter of £47 million from a client.

She may be innocent and denies the charges. But the fact that someone can misplace millions and not notice for a long time is testimony to the spiralling wealth of the global rich.

There are now nearly 1,000 billionaires worldwide and their combined wealth in the past year grew by 35 percent to £1,750 billion.

That’s higher than the combined GDP of all the countries in Africa (£1,100 billion in 2005), plus the GDP of South America’s largest trading bloc, Mercosur, whose full members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (£550 billion).

Truly, who are the real robbers?

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What We Think
Tue 17 Apr 2007, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2047
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