Pig-headed Bush is still deaf to world opinion

US President George Bush has done it again.

US President George Bush has done it again.

He has ignored calls to ensure that the next president of the World Bank is not an American.

The calls were made after Bush's confidant and former deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who supported the US invasion of Iraq, resigned from the world financial body.

The disgraced Wolfowitz stepped down after it had emerged that he had arranged for his girlfriend, who was employed by the bank, to move to the US state department and be given an inflated salary.

For countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Australia and the rest of Africa, Wolfowitz's departure was seen as an opportunity to break the decades-old agreement between the US and Europe that the US gets to appoint the World Bank president and Europe the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Those calling for a break from this tradition are driven by the belief that the selection process for someone to head such a strategic multilateral institution should be more transparent and inclusive.

It is this inclusivity that, for example, could see an African or someone from the developing world heading the World Bank.

This could be a major step for developing countries because having one of their own heading an institution supposedly established to provide financial support for the fight against underdevelopment obviously makes for a more workable situation.

At another level, by acceding to the calls to open up the selection process, Bush would have allayed fears that his government regards the World Bank much as it does other multilateral institutions - as existing to serve American interests.

Bush's political star is at its lowest ebb internationally. He is seen by many as a leader who took his country to a war that it could never win.

To compound the situation he has rewarded those who, like Wolfowitz, misled him into invading Iraq.

This gives the impression that he is a leader who likes to surround himself with yes-men.

It certainly does not augur well for the new world of multilateralism, where leaders are expected to be more open to criticism and to work towards the broader good rather than be driven by egocentricity and neo-conservatism.

Bush's nomination of former US trade representative Robert Zoellick has drawn mixed reactions.

There are those who laud Zoellick's diplomatic experience in Africa. Others believe his experience as a negotiator of trade deals will also come in handy.

But most importantly, Zoellick is seen by those who want the selection process to be more transparent and inclusive as a symbol of American arrogance.

They see him as another American imposition by a president who has shown a tendency to ride roughshod over world opinion.

As for Zoellick, his biggest challenge will be to bring about reforms that countries such as South Africa have been calling for. He should ensure that his successor is not an American.

He can take his cue from his counterpart, IMF head Rodrigo de Rato, who has already suggested that his successor be chosen in a more inclusive manner.