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Could Bono handle the bank?
Experts say the he doesn't have what it takes to lead; Wolfowitz re-emerges as a possible candidate.
March 9, 2005: 1:26 PM EST
Bono, with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil, on a recent trip to Africa.
Bono, with former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil, on a recent trip to Africa.

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Rumors are swirling that rock superstar and anti-poverty-crusader Bono could add World Bank president to his resume.

Treasury Secretary Snow wouldn't rule out the rocker last week on ABC's 'This Week,' but experts say Bono's likelihood of being appointed are slim to none, and slim just left the building.

Gerard Walsh, economics director at the Economist Intelligence Unit, which provides analysis on almost all of the world's countries, questioned the rocker's ability to transform an operation that has received a considerable amount of criticism over the years.

"There would be a substantial amount of institutional change involved," said Walsh pointing for the need for organizational change inside the bank and changes in the way it is currently financed. Any leader would need to have the support of the major donating countries, including the United States, "In reality, what sort of impact would he be able to have?" asked Walsh.

Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former undersecretary at the Treasury, said Bono's people skills could be a big asset at the bank.

"He's done a lot of homework, he understands that they are complicated issues," said Radelet. "You need someone who is skilled at negotiations, compromise, who can bring all sides to the table."

But he said Bono lacks the obvious business background that would be required to lead such an organization and his ultimate effectiveness would depend on the people he surrounded himself with.

While whispers have circulated for months that Bono may make the 'short list' to be submitted to President Bush for final consideration by the Treasury Department, it wasn't until Feb. 25 that the L.A Times brought the issue to the forefront by penning an editorial urging Bono's nomination.

"Bono is the most eloquent and passionate spokesman for African aid in the Western world" wrote the Times, "Bono could enhance the World Bank's image and sell its poverty-reduction mission far more effectively than the other deserving candidates being mentioned for the job."

And speculation heated up Sunday when Treasury Secretary John Snow did not rule out the possibility.

"Well, I'm not going to review here all the candidates that are on the list, but I will attest to my admiration for Bono," said Snow. "He's somebody I admire. He does a lot of good in this world of economic development...he understands the give and take of development. He's very pragmatic, effective and idealistic."

Yet both Radelet and Walsh discounted the possibility that Bono could realistically be appointed to lead the Bank.

"The possibility of this happening is zero," said Radelet, noting that the successor would almost definitely be an American.

But after initial reports that Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz would not make the short list, including remarks from the Defense Department indicating he was not interested in the job, both Radelet and Walsh said Wolfowitz was still in the running.

"I think they were sending up some trial balloons," said Radelet, saying that he thought the Bush administration wanted to test European feelings on Wolfowitz, which have been poor since his promotion of the Iraqi invasion. "I think the administration would love to have him there. He's certainly still a possibility."

The head of the World Bank has traditionally been an American, while the head of its sister organization -- the International Monetary Fund -- has traditionally been from Europe.

The World Bank, which gets its money from donor nations in the developed world, provides big loans to lesser-developed countries for modernization projects.

The bank has been criticized in the past for supporting grand schemes -- like airports or dams -- that failed to produce the intended economic boost and instead further burdened the borrowing country with debt and interest payments.

But the bank has improved its image in recent years, both by exercising more discretion in the projects it supports and by forgiving some of the debt owed to it -- pushed along at least in part by activists like Bono.

Other candidates mentioned include, Ex-Hewlett-Packard (Research) CEO Carly Fiorina, Former New Jersey governor and EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

For more on Wolfowitz nomination talk, click here.

For more on Fiorina's possible nomination, click here.

For more people in the news, click here.  Top of page

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