WHAT is it about resign that Paul Wolfowitz, the embattled president of the World Bank, does not understand? In the past week two significant open letters from past and present members of the World Bank's staff have called for his resignation following the revelation that he had covertly secured a promotion and greatly increased salary for his partner who worked at the Bank. The first letter appeared in the Financial Times; it was from a group of former senior officials in the World Bank (managing directors, senior vice-presidents, vice-presidents, directors) who said that Mr Wolfowitz must go if the Bank is to speak with the necessary moral authority. The second letter was from some 40 members of the Bank's anti-corruption team who warned that their ability to do their work is eroding in the face of legitimate questions from our clients about the bank's ability to practice what it preaches.
In another development last week, Mr Wolfowitz engaged a prominent lawyer to help him in his fight to remain in his job but even if he succeeds it will only be at the cost of further damage to the Bank itself. Mr Wolfowitz's only friend now appears to be President Bush who proposed him for the job after he had served as Donald Rumsfeld's deputy at Defense. He was never an acceptable choice in the first place and now it is past time for him to go.