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France to lead search for IMF head

Updated July 19, 2019

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French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he will lead talks on finding a single European candidate to succeed Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). — AFP/File
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he will lead talks on finding a single European candidate to succeed Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). — AFP/File

CHANTILLY: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Thursday he will lead talks on finding a single European candidate to succeed Christine Lagarde as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The post of IMF managing director, which by convention goes to a European, became vacant after Lagarde was tapped by EU leaders to head the European Central Bank.

Finance ministers of the four European members of the G7 - Germany, France, Britain and Italy - met informally on the sidelines of the meeting of the most developed nations in Chantilly outside Paris to discuss the issue.

Sources said after the meeting that the names of several candidates had been floated but no kind of selection had been made.

“We agreed that it was important one European name was put forward. A number of names were informally discussed but no shortlist was established,” a European official, who asked not to be named, said.

At the same time, the British, Italian and German ministers agreed that Le Maire, whose country currently leads the G7, should head informal discussions with all European countries to “foster a consensus” around a single name, the official added.

Le Maire, who has made clear he does not want the job himself, confirmed after the meeting he will take on the the search.

“What we will try and do in the next days is to coordinate positions so that we have a consensus on a candidate by the end of July,” he said.

Le Maire said it would “inelegant” to indulge in “name-dropping”.

Several high-profile names have already been floated as possible successors to Lagarde who has steered the IMF since 2011.

They include the Canadian-born Bank of England governor Mark Carney, who holds Canadian, British and Irish nationality, and former British finance minister George Osborne, who is now editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper.

Also in the frame are the former finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem of the Netherlands as well as Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino.

Not official policy

The IMF board tapped Lagarde’s number two, American David Lipton, to serve as interim managing director, but by tradition a European always leads the fund while an American runs its sister institution, the World Bank.

Critics of the system see it as a hangover of the last century that no longer reflects the globalised nature and diversity of the world economy.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2019