Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Succession at the IMF

Unless you have a visceral hatred of the IMF, you could not have missed all the media coverage of Dominique Strauss Kahn, its boss. The affair has exploded like a nuclear bomb on a number of fronts. Firstly there is the IMF itself, currently deeply involved in the European bailout situation. Secondly it has blown open the French Presidential race - he was the front runner and it was quite possible that Sarkozy would have lost to him in the elections next year. It has called into question Continental European tolerance for sexual profligacy of its leaders - surely the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is at least a bit worried.
But this blog must remain a strictly non political one. This post is about the appointment of the new IMF chief - DSK has just resigned today and even if he is acquitted, is unlikely to get his job back.

It has been an utterly shameful arrangement that a cosy understanding exists that the World Bank chief is an American and that the IMF chief is an European.  This is a throwback to the post World War II days when only America and Europe mattered. Its a different world today and yet the old boys club still remains. Its a multi polar world these days, in case you have not noticed. But then old foggies in gentleman's clubs are rarely wont to look outside the window until its too late.

That the head of a major international body is chosen for reasons of nationality rather than merit is simply an unacceptable position. But then, alas, head of major international bodies, are indeed chosen that way. Witness the position of the Secretary General of the United Nations  a succession of colourless personalities have graced this chair. Witness the boss of the EU - can anybody even remember his name. Such are the contortions of world politics. So its futile to expect that merit alone will decide the next head of the IMF.  But there is no harm in at least stating the obvious, however unlikely the chance of it happening.

This is a time to change. The new head of the IMF must simply be the best man for the job. In a time of unprecedented financial and economic challenges, it cannot be anybody but that. Irrespective of whether he is from Timor Leste or from Tuvalu. He must be a world renowned economist and also somebody who has worked in the IMF before - after all its a huge and complex organisation.  He must have a track record of major economic policy achievements on the international stage. He must be a heavyweight - not a puppet who can be strung along.