Here we go again: Surprise IMF leadership change litmus test for its legitimacy

On 16 July, Christine Lagarde announced she had submitted her resignation from the IMF as managing director, effective 12 September, in light of her nomination for the presidency of the European Central Bank. In the interim, IMF first deputy managing director, David Lipton, was appointed acting managing director by the executive board. The board intends to complete the selection process by 4 October.

Handy yardstick for health of neocolonial and neoliberal system

The surprise announcement kicked off the customary speculation of potential candidates to fill the IMF leadership position and the time-honoured tradition by civil society and others of calling for the abolition of the historic ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on World Bank and IMF leadership.

The unofficial agreement, in place since the founding of the institutions 75 years ago, has ensured that the IMF has always been led by a European, and the World Bank by a US citizen (see Inside the Institutions, What is the ‘gentleman’s agreement?‘). Civil society organisations around the world have for decades pointed out that the Fund and Bank continue to undermine their legitimacy by adhering to this arrangement. They have demanded an end to the European stranglehold on the top IMF post and for it to live up to its commitment to “adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management” (see Update 76).

The selection of yet another European managing director immediately after this year’s appointment of US-nominee David Malpass as World Bank president (see Observer Spring 2019) would unambiguously demonstrate that the leadership succession processes at the Bretton Woods Institutions remain undemocratic, opaque and illegitimate. The expected quashing of the 15th IMF quota review – which was an opportunity to more fairly distribute voting powers at the IMF executive board (see Observer Summer 2019) – further exacerbates the Fund’s crisis of legitimacy, at a time when the adequacy of the current multilateral system is increasingly being questioned. In the words of Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph, “If the Europeans persist in treating the International Monetary Fund as a hereditary fiefdom, they will destroy the institution. Global credibility will wither away.”

Continue reading “Here we go again: Surprise IMF leadership change litmus test for its legitimacy”

A fragmented Europe selects three IMF managing director candidates

On Friday 26 July, Europeans identified five candidates for the position of IMF managing director ahead of the nomination deadline on 6 September. The initial list of contenders was whittled down to just three on Monday 29.

Traditionally, leadership selection at the World Bank and IMF is subject to a historic ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which has ensured that the IMF managing director has always been a European and the World Bank president a US national. IMF managing directors have disproportionately been French nationals. Of the 11 managing directors, five have been French, followed by two from Sweden, and one each from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany. This time round, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is coordinating the European selection promise.

A fragmented Europe fails to reach consensus

Customarily, Europeans select one candidate and the process of deliberation towards consensus building around that candidate is largely done behind closed doors. This time however, as Europe faces the possibility of growing fragmentation, European governments have struggled to select someone that could win enough support, with reports that the French have sought to widen the pool of candidates, not by looking outside of Europe, but by scrapping the age limit for the job.

Continue reading “A fragmented Europe selects three IMF managing director candidates”

We are back! As Lagarde announces surprise departure, time’s up for the ‘gentleman’s agreement’

Christine Lagarde announced on 16 July that she had submitted her resignation as IMF managing director, effective 12 September, following her nomination for the Presidency of the European Central Bank. David Lipton, the former deputy managing director, has assumed the position of acting managing director in the interim period.

In her resignation letter, Lagarde noted, “On July 2, 2019, the European Council proposed to nominate me to the position of President of the European Central Bank. I had agonized over this proposal during the previous 48 hours and eventually decided to accept.” Interestingly, the letter further noted that, “On the other hand (!) I realize that there is no perfect time to go. The work left to be done is challenging and I know that the Board, Staff, and Management will have their hands full.”

According to the IMF’s Articles of Agreement, the Managing Director, “shall be chief of the operating staff of the Fund and shall conduct, under the direction of the Executive Board, the ordinary business of the Fund. Subject to the general control of the Executive Board, he shall be responsible for the organization, appointment, and dismissal of the staff of the Fund.” 

An end to the ‘gentleman’s agreement’? Don’t hold your breath

Leadership selection at the World Bank and IMF is subject to a historic (and archaic) ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which has ensured that, over the past 75 years, the IMF managing director has always been European and the World Bank president is a US citizen. This agreement harks back to the creation of the institutions, when membership was limited to 45 states and when European powers still retained colonies.

Continue reading “We are back! As Lagarde announces surprise departure, time’s up for the ‘gentleman’s agreement’”

Christine Lagarde as IMF chief? This is a gift to the fund’s critics

 She may be the first woman boss but she’s no reformer, and won’t address wider equalities to rebalance the global economy

First published by the Guardian on 29 June 2011.

By Peter Chowla

After the last three years of financial crises and bailouts, no one can deny that leadership of an international institution like the International Monetary Fund matters. Previous leaders brought some significant changes to the IMF but did not go nearly far enough. The fund is still giving bad advice to European countries, such as supporting the fantasy that Greece can recover without restructuring its debt, and is continuing to force damaging spending cuts in times of recession. The question now is whether Christine Lagarde’s tenure as managing director of the fund will be any better.

The signs are not good.

Read the rest of the article on the Guardian.


Press release: Reaction to the appointment of Christine Lagarde as head of the IMF

In response to the news that the IMF has selected Christine Lagarde to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as Managing Director of the IMF, Jesse Griffiths, Coordinator of the Bretton Woods Project has said:

“The Europeans have shamefully held onto control of the Fund in a well orchestrated stitch-up. Unfortunately, the outcome was clear long before the selection process officially started, once the Europeans decided to use their unfair over-representation at the Fund to force through their candidate.”

“There was a shocking lack of transparency to the whole process with no public interviews held and Board decisions once again made behind closed doors.”

Nick Dearden, Director of the Jubilee Debt Campaign adds:

“The nature of Lagarde;s selection shows once again how out of touch the IMF is. This further tarnishes the IMF’s legitimacy in a rapidly changing world.”

“This decision is bad news for European countries in crisis: the key architect of disastrous austerity policies in Greece is now at the helm of the Fund and she has already made clear to Greek legislators that they should listen to Northern Europe’s interests, rather than the interests of their own people. The IMF has learnt nothing from the debt crises of the past.”

For information: Jesse Griffiths + 44 (0) 7968 041 747 /