Germany’s finance minister added to a chorus of calls for France’s Christine Lagarde to become a new leader of the IMF.
Lagarde has emerged as a front-runner to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also of France, who resigned last week to face charges in New York that he tried to rape a hotel maid. He denies the charges.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday that Lagarde would give Europe its best chance to again lead the fund. German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday stopped short of formally endorsing Lagarde, but called her a “distinguished” and “very experienced” personality.
“Europe would have the best chance to secure the post again with Christine Lagarde, if she decides to run,” Schaeuble told the German weekly Bild am Sonntag.
He was quoted as saying that Lagarde was “outstandingly qualified” and “extremely respected and appreciated in the entire financial world.”
Schaeuble and Merkel said that it was crucial that all Europeans now rally behind a candidate.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
The IMF insists that Strauss-Kahn’s departure has not hurt its day-to-day operations, but it is clearly under pressure to find a successor fast to lead an organization that provides billions in loans to stabilize the world economy.
The 24-member executive board, which will pick Strauss-Kahn’s successor, held a preliminary discussion on Friday at the IMF’s headquarters in Washington. They said in a statement late on Friday that the selection of the fund’s new managing director would be completed by the end of next month.
However, many say the fund — shaken by Strauss-Kahn’s abrupt departure while it plays a crucial role in Europe’s ongoing sovereign debt crisis — needs to get a new leader even faster to get his job done.
The chairman of the organization’s policy advisory committee, Singaporean Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said the IMF was facing pressing challenges and speedy selection of a new leader would be good.
The selection process to find a new IMF chief should be open, transparent and merit-based, the chairman of the IMF’s International Monetary and Financial Committee said in a statement on Saturday.
A US Treasury official earlier last week said the US had not -decided whether to support Lagarde or a non-European for the job.
The EU’s 27 members combined hold the biggest IMF stake, but emerging economies see Europe’s traditional stranglehold on the position as increasingly out of touch with the world economy.
However, they have not yet united around a candidate.
Lagarde’s chances for the job got a boost on Friday when Kemal Dervis, a former finance minister for Turkey who had been considered the leading non-European candidate, said he did not want to be considered for the position.
IMF FOR EUROPEANS
Schaeuble also defended the decades-old agreement under which an American gets to lead the World Bank and a European its sister institution, the IMF.
“After all, the US and Europe pay by far the biggest share of the contributions. It’s like in a publicly traded company: Those who hold the majority of shares will also get to name the chairman,” he was quoted as saying.
Lagarde, 55, has a clean-cut image and has been praised for her acumen in helping steer Europe through the global financial crisis and its more recent debt woes. She speaks impeccable English and spent much of her career in the US as a lawyer.