Experience and qualifications matter, though of course they aren’t the only factor in success. But understanding the issues could be argued to be even more important at the IMF, which deals with complex topics in macroeconomic management, than at other international institutions.
Christine Lagarde, despite her tenure as French finance minister, came in with limited understanding of macroeconomics from her experience in the legal world. Her departure presents the world an opportunity to look at candidates for the IMF top job based on their merits. So which of the candidates being mentioned in the media have the most relevant experience and qualifications?
The following table summarises experience and qualifications of six frequently mentioned candidates along six criteria.
Partial points are awarded to Ms. Georgieva on experience in low- and middle-income countries because while she worked on these types of countries at the World Bank, her only period working in a low- or middle-income country was as an academic in Bulgaria. Mr. Rajan also gets partial points for management within an intergovernmental setting, as he was Chief Economist at the IMF, which while intergovernmental in nature, his department was supposed to be insulated from intergovernmental negotiations.
Our poll on who you think the worst candidate nominated for head of the Fund has the favourite bringing up the rear. Lagarde recieved 33.71% of the vote with Carstens on 24.72%. The rest was split between the no-runner and Mr Early Retirement
The IMF board is due to convene tomorrow to discuss the merits of each candidate. Reports suggest that today they are to take a straw poll of member governments to see whether any candidate has a clear majority. This chart gives you a pretty good idea of what the results might look like…
The US has in the past said it would support the candidate with broad geographic support, the outcome of the straw poll then, is likely to give them the justification to support Lagarde and skirt around accusations that a motivating factor is control of the IMF deputy MD post and of course the World Bank presidency.
Agustín Carstens’ previous experience in the IMF, combined with his background as Finance Minister of Mexico and his current position as Governor of the Mexican central bank, equip him very well to understand and address, on a collaborative and inclusive basis with IMF member countries, the challenges faced by the global economy. Accordingly, after due consideration of the candidates and the IMF selection criteria, we have decided to support him for the position of IMF Managing Director.
Lagarde it seems may at last have the support of China, though the tone suggests they are more resigned to the inevitably of her appointment. China’s central bank chief said “of course we still do not know what the final situation will be. Currently, there doesn’t seem to be anything unclear about it”.
Jubilee Debt Campaign have launched an action calling for Christine Lagarde and Agustín Carstens to commit to a public hearing with people affected by the IMF around the world. They say:
Millions of people around the world are affected by the impact of the IMF’s loan conditions and economic ‘advice’, yet there’s been no opportunity for anyone outside the global financial elite to question them in detail and in public … It’s time those on the receiving end had a chance to ask the questions in a public hearing
First, I believe it is outdated, undemocratic and illegitimate for senior management at international financial institutions to be nominated and chosen on the basis of their nationality. Powerful countries must stop undermining multilateral institutions by maintaining their stranglehold over certain positions. Will you commit to appointing your deputy managing directors through a genuinely open, merit-based and transparent process?
Second, IMF-sanctioned austerity policies are causing irreparable social, and economic damage in many countries across the world. Will you commit to reviewing and reversing these policies, to support instead sustainable job creation and prevent the poorest from being the victims of global economic problems?
Today Lagarde meets with the IMF board following meetings with IMF officials and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner yesterday. Although still a long-shot, Carstens may be buoyed somewhat by the news that Brazil may back him after all. Paulo Nogueira-Batista, Brazil’s executive director at the Fund was quoted as saying “Brazil may well decide to support Carstens”. More symbolic than anything (their chair commands 2.79% of the vote) it at least shows a willingness to express their grievances at the process with deeds as well as words and saves Carstens the embarrassment of not having the support of leaders from his own region. Nogueira-Batista continues, “this institution has a long way to go in undoing problematic governance structures … this [campaign] process has helped somewhat by highlighting the weaknesses”.