IMF chief in spotlight over World Bank report on China

Published September 18, 2021
A Sept 6  file photo shows the IMF chief delivering a speech during the opening ceremony of a conference on climate change in Rotterdam, Netherlands.—AP
A Sept 6 file photo shows the IMF chief delivering a speech during the opening ceremony of a conference on climate change in Rotterdam, Netherlands.—AP

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund’s executive board is reviewing a report prepared for the World Bank that found IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva in her previous senior role at the World Bank pressured staff to change data to favour China, the IMF said on Friday.

Georgieva has said she disagrees “fundamentally with the findings and interpretations” of the independent report, prepared by the law firm WilmerHale at the request of the World Bank’s ethics committee and issued on Thursday.

The report found that Georgieva and other World Bank officials applied “undue pressure” on staff to boost China’s ranking in the bank’s “Doing Business 2018” report on nations’ business regulations.

The IMF review was launched after Georgieva briefed the board on the issue on Thursday.

“The IMF board is currently reviewing this matter,” IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said.

“As part of the regular procedure in such matters, the ethics committee will report to the board,” Rice said, but gave no timetable.

Georgieva addressed the issue at the start of a previously scheduled town hall-style meeting with IMF staff on Friday, according to three people who participated in the virtual event and a fourth who was briefed on her remarks.

‘Not true’

She said she highly values data and analysis and does not pressure staff to change data as the report found, according to a transcript provided to Reuters.

“Let me put it very simply to you. Not true. Neither in this case, nor before or after, I have put pressure on staff to manipulate data,” Georgieva told IMF staff, according to the transcript. The Washington-based multilateral lender was seeking China’s support for a big capital increase at the time. Georgieva was the World Bank’s chief executive in those days.

Georgieva has led the IMF and its roughly 2,500 staff since 2019. She has helped lead the global response to the pandemic while securing support of a $650 billion expansion of IMF emergency reserves.

Some of the IMF’s 190 member countries, which fund its lending and other projects aimed at alleviating poverty and bolstering global financial stability, said they are reviewing the ethics report as well.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2021

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