France’s Strauss-Kahn favored for IMF top job

Interview

Former French finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn was widely tipped to become the ’s new head after nominations for the post closed Friday.

Challenging the European Union’s hold on the job, Russia proposed former Czech prime minister Josef Tosovsky. But with backing from the EU, the United States and Africa, Strauss-Kahn seems headed for the managing director’s office at the crisis lending agency. Strauss-Kahn, France’s finance minister in 1997-99, would take over from Spain’s Rodrigo de Rato in a job held by a European since the Washington-based fund was set up 62 years ago. De Rato is set to leave his post in October, two years before his five-year term ends. His predecessor Horst Koehler also left early, becoming Germany's president.
The IMF’s governing board said Strauss-Kahn and Tosovsky were the only candidates proposed by its August 31 deadline. The board said it would make its choice after interviewing both men in September. “The executive board will consider the candidates on the basis of their professional record and qualifications,” a board statement said.

Founded to help Europe rebuild after World War II, the IMF is best known for aiding countries in financial crisis by providing loans tied to tough economic reforms - a role that has often provoked criticism. But the IMF faces growing questions about its relevance. Borrowing from the fund has sunk to its lowest level in decades. Accordingly, the IMF’s income from loan repayments by governments is set to fall over the next few years. Some countries that have borrowed in the past, such as Pakistan and Ukraine, have declined further IMF aid. The EU nominated Strauss-Kahn in July. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has called him a “strong candidate.”

Not all of Europe was happy about the French candidacy. Some conservative German politicians complained that France already had its share of international top jobs, including Jean-Claude Trichet at the European Central Bank and Pascal Lamy at the World Trade Organization. Russia has endorsed Tosovsky, a former Czech central bank chief - but even Tosovsky’s own government has publicly backed Strauss-Kahn. Under a deal contested by emerging nations, a European heads the IMF while a US national leads the World Bank. Both agencies are based in Washington.
When he announced his resignation in June, de Rato urged the IMF to push forward with giving poorer countries a greater share of power in the fund’s decision-making. (m&c.com)

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