By Ray Fleming
Paul Wolfowitz - remember him? - has kept a low profile since President Bush nominated him to become the new president of the World Bank. A howl of distress and rage arose from Third World specialists who could not believe that someone who had been so prominent in pushing the case for the invasion of Iraq should be put in charge of one of the most important organisations devoted to development of the world's poorest nations and their hungry, sick people. Mr Wolfowitz took up his appointment yesterday and found waiting for him in his in-tray a letter of protest at his appointment from 303 groups in 62 countries. Nothing daunted, he immediately announced that Africa would be his first priority. He told a press conference, “Nothing would be more satisfying than to feel at the end of however long a term I serve here that we played a role in changing Africa from a continent of despair to a continent of hope.” One person who will be pleased to hear of Mr Wolfowitz's African priority will be Tony Blair who is trying to keep Africa's needs at the top of his agenda for the G8 meting at Gleneagles in July despite some discouragement from President Bush. Another piece of good news for Mr Blair, therefore, is that Mr Wolfowitz will be attending the G8 summit following a visit he is making to Africa in the near future. It is, of course, one thing to be committed to the cause of Africa and another to know how to bring about the necessary changes there after so many approaches have failed over the past 50 years. The report on Africa commissioned by Mr Blair for the G8 meeting recommends, inter alia, abolishing the agricultural subsidies of rich nations and doubling the present level of development aid. Neither of these ideas is favoured by the US administration and it will be interesting to see how independent a position Mr Wolfowitz takes on them wearing his new World Bank hat.

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