Three-way race for top IMF job

on Sunday, June 12, 2011
Three-way race for top IMF job

In the fray:The main candidates for the post of IMF's chief, (from left) Mexican Central Bank Governor Agustin Guillermo Carstens, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer.

JERUSALEM/Cairo: Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer announced on Saturday he was in the race to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund, even as Egypt announced support for French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde's bid for the post.

Mr. Fischer, 67, is a widely respected economist credited with successfully guiding Israel's economy through the global crisis.

He is nevertheless something of a dark-horse candidate, as Ms. Lagarde and Mexico's Agustin Carstens are generally considered the leading contenders.

“A unique, unplanned and possibly and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has arisen to run for the head of the International Monetary Fund, which after consideration, I decided I wanted to pursue,” said Mr. Fischer.

“I believe I can contribute to the IMF and to the global economy in this period after the crisis,” he said a day after the deadline for nominations closed.

The job became vacant unexpectedly after Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned on May 18 to fight sexual assault charges in New York.

The 24-member executive board, representing all the IMF's members, has targeted the end of June to reach a consensus on one of the candidates, which is how it has decided the issue in the past.

Commentators said Mr. Fischer was likely hoping he could be a compromise candidate, should the delegates become deadlocked over the other two.

One possible stumbling block could be his age. Mr. Fischer will be 68 in October and IMF regulations call for a candidate under 65. His ties to Israel could also prove unpopular in the Arab world.

He has held senior positions at the World Bank and was the number two at the IMF and at financial giant Citigroup.

But while he is eminently qualified for the IMF post, his candidacy would be a long shot, as the job traditionally goes to a European, which of course makes Ms. Lagarde the favourite.

The resignation of Mr. Strauss-Kahn, however, has sparked calls for someone from the emerging economies to be appointed, which would favour the bid of Mr. Carstens, Mexico's central bank chief.

Two other candidates, Kazakhstan's Grigory Marchenko and Trevor Manuel of South Africa, pulled out ahead of Friday's nomination deadline — a move that underscored the widespread belief that Europe already had a done deal.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Foreign Minister Nabil al-Arabi on Sunday announced Egypt's support for Ms. Lagarde after talks with her in Cairo.

Egypt is on the 24-member executive board of the IMF.

Ms. Lagarde, who on Saturday was in Saudi Arabia where she also voiced confidence, declined to comment on Fischer's candidacy, saying only: “He has past experience as the number two at the IMF ... Everybody is free to file a candidacy.”

Despite a whirlwind world tour that has taken her from Brasilia to Beijing via New Delhi, Ms. Lagarde has failed to lock official backing from emerging powers in the race to become managing director of the world's crisis lender. — AFP


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