“If you want to make poverty history you have to make corruption history.” Paul Wolfowitz, embattled president of the World Bank, cited this remark by Nuhu Ribadu, head of the Economic Crimes and Corruption Commission of Nigeria, in a speech made only last month. There he emphasised, once again, the guiding theme of his presidency: fighting corruption and improving governance. How credible, after recent revelations, is the World Bank as a beacon of good governance and a scourge of corruption? “Much less than it should be” is the answer. In a speech just over a year ago in Jakarta, Mr Wolfowitz defined governance as “the combination of transparent and accountable institutions, strong skills and competence, and a fundamental willingness to do the right thing”. Corruption is narrower: it is the abuse of public provision for private gain. Corruption, as Jim Wolfensohn, Mr Wolfowitz’s predecessor, said, is “a cancer on the development process”. Yet corruption is also the natural thing to do. The remainder of Martin Wolf’s column can be read here (FT.com subscribers only). Discussion from our guest economists is free.
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