IMF Leadership Selection Survey: Early Results at Odds with European Rush

May 25, 2011

Early results from our global opinion survey on the selection system, criteria and candidates for the new head of the IMF are now available. If you haven’t yet taken the survey and do so now, you will get access to the results as of yesterday. Not surprisingly, there is overwhelming agreement that the selection system should be open, competitive and merit-based, without regard to nationality (more on that below). There are also some interesting results concerning the candidates.Two leading candidates to head the IMF that have been endorsed formally by their own government— French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde (backed by France as well as the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands), and Mexican Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens (by Mexico)—are both clearly acceptable to the first round of CGD survey takers (here).  They are both viewed on almost all criteria as “excellent”.  Lagarde falls to “good” in the category of international organization experience and Carstens to “good” in the category of management experience.Kemal Dervis, who withdrew late last week after we launched the survey, so far ranks highest overall, using the eyeball method.My current favorite, Arminio Fraga, who brought Brazil through its 1998-2001 crisis and knows the private markets well, ranks above his Latin colleague Carstens and Lagarde on experience managing crises, private sector experience, and international organization experience.  I like Fraga because he is the Central Banker crisis manager who best understands the logic of investing in health, education, and people in general, for the long haul of transforming an economy.  That perspective matters as evidence grows that macroeconomic stability is best secured when people feel their political institutions are supporting their long-run economic security.Among Carstens, Fraga and Lagarde, Lagarde scores best on high-level political and diplomatic experience. It seems at the moment if you come from Europe this criterion trumps all other selection criteria; the Europeans apparently think that under Lagarde the IMF would just relend or as Simon Johnson former IMF chief economist nicely puts it extend and pretend in the Eurozone area – see my comment on that insider approach here. Carstens scores best on understanding the international monetary system and Fraga on managing crises.Stan Fischer, the Governor of the Bank of Israel and the former Senior Deputy Managing Director of the Fund, is still revered (by the first round of survey takers, using eyeball method) as outstanding.Asian candidates do less well overall; they are probably less well-known to survey takers, the majority of whom so far are from the United States or Europe. Meanwhile a strong candidate, Tharman Shanmugaratnam of Singapore, is reported as probably not interested given his new duties as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.The only African candidate, Trevor Manuel of South Africa, is near the top on managing crises and on high-level diplomatic experience.Fewer than 10 percent of respondents agree that the current selection system should continue. Almost 90 percent agree with this statement:

The traditional European prerogative to name the head of the IMF and the U.S. prerogative to name the World Bank president should be replaced by a selection process that is open, competitive and merit-based, without regard to nationality.
IMF Board members representing the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China) plus South Africa seem to agree heartily—they have issued a formal statement of “concern” about the European pressure and called for all member countries to be consulted before a new leader is selected.I was pleased to see more than 50 percent of survey respondents agreeing to the logic of double majority voting (see more on this here). I suspect the percentage would be even higher if more respondents knew what double majority voting is and what is implies for the distribution of power and influence across countries in IMF voting.Do take the survey.  It is not too late.  Minister Lagarde has thrown her hat in the ring now and neither the Asians nor the Latins have agreed among themselves on a common candidate. And when President Obama meets with the rest of the G-8 this week, I fear the United States will succumb to pressure from the Europeans over the objections of China, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other emerging markets, and do the deal.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.