Endorsement: Singh for the IMF

The IMF is seeking a new Managing Director. It is a well-paid, and influential role. No Americans need apply. It is a longstanding tradition that the head of the World Bank is always American and the head of the IMF is always European.The two bodies are twins. Both are engaged in international development and financial stabilization. One lends money to governments and the other makes grants of financial aid. The names of the two organizations are confusing: the Fund is a bank and the Bank is a fund.

The tradition that a European must head the Fund is under challenge. When the two organizations were established it was obvious that they would be financed exclusively by America and Europe, with other parts of the world being beneficiaries. Today, it is major Asian countries such as China and India which are growing fast and providing much of the world’s credit and demand. The European economies – especially those of the 16 member Eurozone – are in trouble and have been receiving loans from the Fund. Despite pressures for a candidate from the developing world to be considered, it is most likely that another European will be chosen.

France has provided four of the ten managing directors so far, and is pressing the claims of its present Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde. She is probably the front runner. The fact that the post has arisen in the midst of a scandal and needs to be filled quickly probably limits the number of rival candidates that can emerge.

A number of German candidates have been mentioned, including Finance Minister, Peer Steinbruck. The candidate most actively campaigning, is former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who was interested in the post before Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s disgrace, when he was expecting it to become vacant in about six months. Brown emphatically does not have the support of his successor, David Cameron, who blames Brown (finance minister for ten years before he became PM) for the calamitous state of Britain’s public finances.

If a candidate on the borders of Europe and Asia were to be acceptable, the capable Kermal Dervis from Turkey might fit the bill, but Turkey’s antagonistic rival, Greece, is in particular need of IMF support, and would lobby hard against a Turk getting the job.

Common Sense would like to see Manmohan Singh be considered for the role. Though he will turn 80 next year, Singh leads a dynamic and reforming government in India, the world’s largest democracy. The Indian economy has dramatically outperformed Europe during his period as PM, and much of the credit goes to reforms he introduced as Finance Minister in the 90s. He was also a successful head of the central bank. Given this success, it would be a shame to see him leave his present job, but there are reasons why he may have to, despite being re-elected the year before last.

His party – Indian National Congress – is the fiefdom of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Four generations of the family have led the party, three of them as Prime Minister. And the fifth generation is almost ready, with Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Vadra both rising stars. Their mother, Italian born Sonia Gandhi, is the party leader. Their father and grandmother were both martyred prime ministers. Such qualifications trump Singh’s competence, so let’s promote his candidacy for the IMF instead.


Article provided by Quentin Langley
Lecturer in PR and Political Communications,
School of Journalism, Cardiff University

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