Nobody is entirely sure what to make of the appointment of neocon radical Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank. However, this Bloomberg story contains an ominous tidbit:

Under Wolfowitz, the Bush administration may now try to narrow the focus of the World Bank, returning the international lending institution to its roots of primarily financing large infrastructure projects and limiting the practice of handing out zero-interest loans, analysts such as Alan Meltzer, who led a 2000 congressional inquiry into the World Bank, said.

For the past decade or two, the World Bank had been making an effort — or at least talking more — about making low-to-zero interest loans to social development projects in developing countries, stuff like pensions and education. This is contrast to the old school, wherein the WB would make enormous loans to huge infrastructure projects — highways, hydropower, etc. — that would enrich the huge American companies (see: Halliburton) that built them, leave the poor poor, and put the countries themselves in crippling debt to the U.S., which they could never possibly hope to escape from, leaving them, effectively, permanently indentured American colonies.

Here’s a bit of an interview with John Perkins, ex-international development consultant and author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man:

The electricity, the highways, the ports were seldom even used by the people who needed them the most. But the country would be left holding a huge debt and it would be such a large debt that they couldn’t possibly repay it. And so at some point in time, we economic hit men, we go back into the country and say, "Look, you owe us a lot of money, you can’t pay your debts. Therefore sell us your oil at a real cheap price or vote with us at a UN vote or give us land for a military base or send some of your troops to some country where we want you to support us."

Looks like Wolfowitz — and unreconstructed advocate of American Empire — may be sent to return the WB to its "good" old days.

(All this comes via Digby, whom you should be reading more often.)

(See also this dystopian scenario from Billmon.)

Update [2005-3-18 8:28:46 by Dave Roberts]: More support for this theory in an American Prospect column.

Update [2005-3-18 10:8:57 by Dave Roberts]: And see this Salon piece on Wolfowitz’s 30-year record of incompetence.