Wednesday, August 29, 2007

IMF Managing Director Selection: Anticlimax?

In accordance with a July decision by the IMF Executive Board, the nomination period for the position of IMF Managing Director will close in two days, on Friday, August 31. (The position is open because the current Managing Director, Rodrigo de Rato, unexpectedly announced at the end of June his intention to resign his post following the conclusion of the 2007 Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group in October.) Traditionally, managing directors have been (western) Europeans chosen by (western) Europeans, just as the presidents of the World Bank have been U.S. nationals chosen by the United States. Those assumptions concerning the choice and nationality of these top positions have come under severe criticism in recent years, from "emerging" countries, such as Brazil, China, India, and South Africa, from some European countries, such as the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom, from a number of NGOs, and from numerous newspaper editorial boards, including the Financial Times. And there was some anticipation that the reformer countries (and others) would challenge the status quo by nominating their own candidate for the IMF spot. But they haven't. Instead, the European Union, which now believes that it speaks for Europe in these matters, chose Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French national, early in the process. Russia has tried to disrupt things recently by nominating Josef Tošovský, a former head of the Czech National Bank, a move that the Czech Republic (now a EU Member State) quickly rejected. But Russia, for obvious reasons, can hardly lead the way on this issue (its motives are, shall we say, complex), and it is unclear whether the reformers will support Tošovský. It now appears likely that Strauss-Kahn will get the nod from the IMF Board, though it's possible that his appointment will not be a simple and easy anointment. It appears equally likely, though, that the tradition's days are numbered. Even Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the Eurogroup (the collection of finance ministers of countries that have adopted the Euro), has recently acknowledged as much.