Lagarde to head to India for support in IMF top post bid

Lagarde to head to India for support in IMF top post bid

New Delhi: French finance minister Christine Lagarde will head to India soon to seek support for her candidacy for the top job at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a French minister said on Friday.

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French defence minister Gerard Longuet, who is on a two-day visit to India, said Delhi will be Lagarde’s first stop as she formally begins touring nations to secure backing for her campaign to become the first woman managing director of IMF.

“The dates are being worked out, but the visit will be soon," Longuet said.

India is among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of emerging economies that demanded that the next IMF chief be chosen from a developing country rather than from Europe, as is the tradition.

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“What is important is not that she is a European; what is important is that she is competent," said Longuet.

Lagarde threw her hat into the ring on Wednesday after IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Frenchman, quit last week following his arrest on charges of sexual assault on a New York hotel chambermaid.

Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens has also announced his intention to run for the post.

Longuet’s remarks follow an unprecedented move by IMF executive directors representing the BRICS nations demanding the new chief of the international lending body be chosen on the basis of competence rather than nationality. The move reflects the churn in many multilateral organizations where emerging economies are now demanding greater representation following the 2008-09 global recession that crippled the once-powerful Western economies.

IMF spokeswoman Caroline Atkinson on Friday said the agency will publish the names of candidates seeking to become the next managing director by 17 June; the last date for filing nominations is 10 June. The selection of the new IMF chief is expected to be announced by 30 June. Atkinson pointed out that the selection process differs from previous ones in that all 187 member nations may nominate a candidate. Before this, nominations came only from the 24 members of the executive board. By tradition, a European—most often from France—has led IMF since its 1945 beginning, while the president of the World Bank comes from the US.

Germany voiced support for Lagarde. The country’s India ambassador Thomas Matussek told reporters in Delhi that she “would be a very good candidate" to head IMF. A European IMF chief would be able to help “avert the crisis emanating from the debt crisis in Europe", he said, referring to the leading role that the agency is playing to help Europe overcome the squeeze. Matussek, however, added that he recognized the legitimacy of emerging countries demanding a candidate from their ranks.

The comments reflect the confidence among European nations, which consider Lagarde’s appointment a certainty.

“Lagarde? It’s done," a senior official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But in an interview to Business Standard, Arvind Virmani, IMF executive director from India, said the presence of Mexico’s Carstens could result in a competition. “There is a possibility of a vote, in case he remains in the fray till the end," Virmani said.

Graphic by Sandeep Bhatnagar; photographs by Reuters, AFP, AP

AFP and Bloomberg contributed to this story.