Wolfowitz Speaks of Poverty, Growth

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Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (search) will focus on measures to boost economic growth, cut poverty and clamp down on graft around the globe if he is elected World Bank president later this week, he said in an interview published Monday.

Asked by The Jakarta Post if he would use the World Bank job to spread democracy, Wolfowitz replied, "I think people know what I think on that subject, but I think I'll be more effective if I concentrate on those things that lead to poverty reduction and economic development."

U.S. President George W. Bush (search), who nominated Wolfowitz for the World Bank (search) role, has pledged to advance democracy around the world.

Wolfowitz would be a controversial choice to lead the 184-nation bank. He is seen as one of the architects of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and a hawk in the Bush administration, and he has little experience of international development issues.

But Wolfowitz, who was U.S. ambassador in Jakarta (search) from 1986 to 1989, said his Indonesia posting gave him a vital insight into economic challenges faced by developing nations.

"I've seen first hand what poverty is like in a developing country," he said. "I've seen successful development policies, successful contributions from international donors and I've also seen some failures that are the result of bad governance."

Wolfowitz praised the current World bank president, James Wolfensohn, who steps down June 1 at the end of his second five-year-term, for his fight against corruption and pledged to keep reminding governments of the need to battle graft.

"Too often we've seen where the world has been generous to countries with economic assistance and none of that has gotten to the people it's intended for because it's been basically drained off by inadequate institutions," he said.

"What you have to do is get people to understand that if they want their countries to grow and succeed, it's not going to be international assistance that's going to make it possible," he added. "They are going to have to take some of the difficult policy decisions, political decisions, to control corruption."

The United States is the bank's largest shareholder, and the bank traditionally has had an American president. The bank's 24-member board meets Thursday to vote on whether to approve Wolfowitz's nomination.

Germany, Britain and Italy have publicly backed Wolfowitz, giving him important support from Europe, where hostility to the U.S.-led war in Iraq lingers.