Sections of the British press are calling for an open, international ‘competition’ to be held to decide on the next head of the IMF. Along with this post and that at the World Bank, typically the Europeans and the Americans have kept them for themselves.
We agree that the position should be chosen on merit, but we would still opt for a European this time round.
Christine Lagarde, France’s talented Minister of Finance, is, among many other things, a deficit hawk. Indeed, perhaps the better analogy might be a Napoleonic eagle among deficit hawks. She was one of the first to urge sound money after the 2008 crisis, from which France has emerged, as a result of her fiscal discipline, far more strongly than French industry may deserve. This is her strongest qualification – and the reason President Obama might veto her appointment to the IMF. It is sometimes recorded as a “gaffe” that she said the economic crisis was over by the end 2008 – but, in fact, she was right: the moment crisis had passed by then. True or not, however, it is not what those still struggling with the consequences want to hear.
She is also, unlike Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is currently facing allegations of rape in the USA, and the vast majority of modern politicians, an accomplished leader in her own right with an outstanding track record in the private sector. She is a leading commercial lawyer and the first woman chairman of a major international law firm. Any private sector experience is a breath of fresh air in politics these days, and her achievements in business make her doubly welcome in public life.
It is no surprise that she speaks better English that most English people, and, even when interviewed in this second language of hers, she comes across as more confident and better informed than most British politicians. Her intellectual superiority over the mass of party hacks shines through every time.
Finally, she is, of course, a woman, but a woman whose qualifications and experience ensure that no one could ever question that her appointment was on merit or accuse her of being a “token woman”. Of course, gender should never in principle be an issue in the selection for any post, but, in this particular case, it would be a nice bonus to know that her term at the IMF would be most unlikely to end in the same way as her predecessor’s.