French finance minister Christine Lagarde is set to become the next head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after winning the endorsement of the US hours before a meeting of the institution’s board.
The IMF meets in Washington today and is expected to name its new head to succeed former IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who is facing trial for the alleged attempted rape of a New York hotel chambermaid.
Announcing the US endorsement Treasury secretary Tim Geithner said: “Minister Lagarde’s exceptional talent and broad experience will provide invaluable leadership for this indispensable institution at a critical time for the global economy. We are encouraged by the broad support she has secured among the fund’s membership, including from the emerging economies.”
Lagarde had the support of most European countries when she launched her bid in May. China and Russia have now backed her appointment and along with the US she now has the explicit support of other nations including Indonesia and Egypt representing more than half the IMF’s votes.
Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin told the ITAR-TASS news agency: “I think that she has all the necessary qualities and when the (IMF) board of directors votes, we will support her candidacy. She will be able to make this key international organization more dynamic and assure its future reform.”
The appointment will cap a tumultuous period for the IMF, currently led by Strauss-Kahn’s deputy John Lipsky, who was planning to retire before the scandal broke. The scandal came as the Greek financial crisis left the IMF in turmoil as it attempted to deal with one of its biggest tests in decades.
“I am well aware that recent events have left open wounds,” the French candidate said in a statement to the IMF. “I know that John [Lipsky]’s departure, coming as it does at the very worst of times, will leave a big hole. The incoming MD must take pains to show the outside world that this great institution is not only leading in terms of expertise, but also in terms of integrity and work ethics.”