Time for a change
Why a euro-zone finance minister, even a talented one, should not lead the IMF
OFFICIALLY the search for a new head of the IMF, to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who awaits trial on charges of sexual assault, has barely begun. The fund’s member governments have until June 10th to propose candidates, after which a shortlist will be drawn up. But in practice the race seems all but over. That is because European countries, which hold over a third of the votes on the IMF’s board, have rallied around a single contender: France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde.
In contrast, emerging economies, which have long argued that the fund should have a non-European boss, have so far conspicuously failed to fix on an alternative candidate. The Americans, kingmakers in this contest, have said little in public but in private seem happy with Ms Lagarde, not least because they hope to keep both the deputy’s job at the fund and the presidency of the World Bank. Barring embarrassments, one French politician is likely to succeed another.
Ms Lagarde has many strengths. She has been a steady and successful finance minister, no mean feat with a boss as mercurial as Nicolas Sarkozy. A lawyer by profession, she lacks the technical background that the IMF’s best bosses have had, but she is a superb communicator, a good negotiator and, by all accounts, an excellent manager. Given the circumstances of Mr Strauss-Kahn’s departure, the fact that she is a woman is a bonus. It is not hard to see why even Western finance ministers with a low opinion of Mr Sarkozy have rushed to anoint her.
But it is still wrong. To begin with, the stitch-up, whereby the head of the IMF is a European and the head of the World Bank is an American, is a disgrace. International posts should be filled according to merit. And the growth of emerging economies makes it even less defensible.
但事情还是有点不对劲。首先，欧洲人和美国人分别担任IMF和世界银行的总裁的内部操纵，本身就不光彩。其次, 国际职位本应按才录用。同时, 新兴经济国家的发展也让这样的操纵安排毫无立足之地。
Not exactly Europe’s moment
Moreover, the case against appointing a euro-zone finance minister as head of the IMF now is overwhelming. The main issue facing the fund is the euro zone. The fund is supposed to be an impartial arbiter of good economic policy. It is the only organisation likely to force a rethink of the euro zone’s failed strategy towards Greece, Ireland and Portugal. There were already fears that Mr Strauss-Kahn’s presidential ambitions led the fund to be too soft on Europe. Ms Lagarde has played a central role in forming the euro zone’s response to its debt crisis, and whatever her private views, she has a public record of defending the indefensible. Staggeringly, some Europeans have tried to argue that only one of their own can understand their continent’s complex politics; imagine the laughter if somebody had made the same argument for Argentina’s finance minister in the 1980s or Thailand’s in 1997.
Besides, there are people who could do the job well who do not happen to be euro-zone finance ministers. Stanley Fischer, the governor of Israel’s central bank and former number two at the IMF, has vast experience of international economics and financial crises. Agustín Carstens, head of Mexico’s central bank and also a former official at the fund, is another safe pair of hands. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s finance minister and head of the IMF’s policy advisory committee, is widely admired for his technical and political skills. Among central banker types, Mark Carney (currently at the Bank of Canada) and Arminio Fraga (formerly president of Brazil’s outfit) have stood out. Admittedly, none of these men is perfect: Mr Fischer, for instance, is too old under existing rules and had a patchy record as deputy head of the fund. But none of them is as compromised as Ms Lagarde.
而且，欧元区财长之外，能够胜任此职位的人物也大有人在。斯坦利·费舍尔（Stanley Fischer），以色列央行行长，IMF前二号人物，有应对国际经济与金融危机的丰富经验。奥古斯汀·卡斯腾斯（Agustín Carstens），墨西哥央行行长，IMF前高官，也是另一个合适的人选。尚达曼（Tharman Shanmugaratnam），新加坡财长兼IMF政策咨询委员会主任，因其技术及政治技巧而备受推崇。央行行长中，现任职加拿大银行的马克·卡尼（Mark Carney），巴西金融机构前总裁费拉加（Arminio Fraga）也都是出类拔萃的人选。不可否认，这些人都不完美：比如费舍尔，按现行的任职条件，他的年龄太大，而且在基金组织担任副手期间工作也不是一向良好。比较而言，他们都不如拉加德那样各方面都折中。
It is still not too late for emerging economies to unite around a different candidate, and for America to support their choice. Europe’s monopoly of the IMF’s leadership has long been an anomaly. It is time that it ended.