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IMF AND WORLD BANK: High-wire act that changed the Bank

James Wolfensohn is about to reach a milestone. His five-year term at the helm of the World Bank is coming to an end. US president Bill Clinton will shortly decide whether to reappoint him. James Smalhout examines the record.

Read my lips, says Jim Wolfensohn

World Bank turns to guarantees

Seven-point plan to save the world

low tolerance
for criticism

Complex and mercurial, Jim Wolfensohn exudes a passion for the job. He considers his half-decade at the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, more simply known as the World Bank, to be the most important task that he has tackled.

Wolfensohn has described his presidential role as a high-wire act of sorts. He's not been content to settle for a Bank which pushes countries into policies designed only to produce growth. Development, in his eyes, involves far more than that. He wants staff to think in more "human" terms.

"I am absolutely convinced that for the future it has to be a partnership of interests between the financial and macro and the social and structural."

The task is daunting. Dire poverty remains the lot of multitudes 40 years after the International Development Association (IDA) was set up as a World Bank affiliate to assist the poorest countries.

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