Who’s in the Running to Run the IMF?
A look at the race to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
With the International Monetary Fund looking for a new chief to replace the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, several names have emerged as front-runners. Here's a look at some of the top contenders with odds from British betting service William Hill.
With the International Monetary Fund looking for a new chief to replace the disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, several names have emerged as front-runners. Here’s a look at some of the top contenders with odds from British betting service William Hill.
Job: Finance minister
The case: Lagarde is extremely well-regarded internationally — the Financial Times ranked her as Europe’s best finance minister — and well-acquainted with the particulars of Europe’s financial crisis. Her appointment, following Strauss-Kahn’s arrest on sexual assault charges, would also be a symbolic blow to the boys’ club that has traditionally dominated leadership positions in major international organizations. As Jenna MacGregor wrote in the Washington Post, regardless of whether Strauss-Kahn is convicted, his past comments and actions toward women can’t have made his female associates feel comfortable. “While it may be little more than symbolism, that matters when it comes to selecting leaders,” MacGregor writes.
Job: Former administrator of the U.N. Development Program, now director of the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.
The case: With experience managing a major international institution and a sterling reputation as an economist, Dervis has emerged as the odds-on favorite for the job. His birthplace is an advantage as well. With a Turkish managing director, the directorship could technically remain in European hands while simultaneously reaching out to the Middle East, a region where the Fund is not so popular at the moment. As Harvard economist Dani Rodrik writes:
Consider the (almost) impossible combination of demands that must be met during the job search. The Germans insist the new managing director should be from Europe. Europe’s weak periphery wants someone who will be sympathetic to their cause and hit the ground running. Emerging market and developing economies ask for a leader that departs from the usual mold and will reflect their outlook and preferences for a change. And the world needs simply the best man or woman for the job.
Improbably, there is someone who meets all these criteria, and his name is Kemal Dervis.
Update: Dervis’s candidacy may have taken a hit on May 19 when the New York Times reported that he had had an affair while working at the World Bank with a woman who now works at the IMF.
Update 2: Dervis issued a statement on May 20 saying he was not in the running for the job.
MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA
Job: Deputy chairperson of India’s Planning Commission, former director of the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office
The case: The leading candidate from the BRIC countries, Ahluwalia would be one of the main contenders — if the Fund decides to look beyond Europe for a new chief. Ahluwalia has been a driving force behind India’s economic liberalization and was described as the “brain” of the Indian government by Time magazine. His home country is pushing hard for his candidacy, with the Indian government’s chief economic advisor saying, “In my view, Montek is the best name … not only from India’s point of view, but from the world’s point of view also.”
Job: Professor of economics at the University of Chicago, former president of the German Bundesbank
The case: Weber is reportedly the preferred candidate of Angela Merkel, who may not be comfortable having Lagarde at the helm of the Fund, given the chancellor’s recent clashes with the French government on monetary policy. (Update: Merkel publicly praised Lagarde on May 20.) The BBC’s Stephanie Flanders writes that Weber “has the advantage of being a traditionalist when it comes to little matters like inflation and budget deficits. If you think the IMF needs a firm hand on the purse strings after a period of throwing a lot of money at the financial crises, Weber is the man for you. ”
Job: Former prime minister, former chancellor of the exchequer
The case: Brown reportedly badly wants the IMF’s top job and has support from within the Fund’s top management. His stimulus policies for the British economy were strongly backed by Strauss-Kahn back in 2009. On the other hand, Brown enjoys little support within his own country, with current Prime Minister David Cameron saying he is “not the most appropriate person” to head the IMF, making it unlikely that he will win the nomination.
Job: Deputy prime minister of Singapore, chairman of the IMF’s Monetary and Financial Committee
The case: Tharman was the first Asian to head the IMF’s high-powered financial committee and has been at the forefront of efforts to make the Fund’s top leadership more internationally diverse. He has spoken to the press on behalf of the Fund several times since Strauss-Kahn’s arrest, so he’s certainly a good representative. But despite the speculation about his candidacy for the managing director job, Tharman has dismissed the idea, saying he will focus his efforts back home in Singapore, where he was just named deputy prime minister.
Job: Governor of the Bank of Canada
The case: A Harvard- and Oxford-trained economist and Reader’s Digest‘s most trusted Canadian, Carney’s stewardship has received a great deal of acclaim for Canada’s strong economic performance in the midst of the global financial crisis. With the job likely to stay in European hands, Carney’s candidacy is a long-shot, but as the Globe and Mail‘s Michael Babad put it, “To date, the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank haven’t been able to solve the continent’s debt crisis, so maybe it’s time for a Canadian to show them how to do it.”
Country: South Africa
Job: Formerly minister of finance, now head of the National Planning Commission
The case: Emerging economic power South Africa is pushing strongly for the next head of the IMF to be from a developing country. “Such a candidate will bring a new perspective that will ensure that the interests of all countries, both developed and developing, are fully reflected in the operations and policies of the IMF,” said current Foreign Minister Pravin Gordhan. As it happens, Gordhan has just the man in mind for the job: his predecessor as finance minister, Trevor Manuel. The planning commission head is popular both domestically and internationally and has experience working with the IMF.
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