Time to put an end to neo-colonial method of choosing IMF boss

24 May 2011

Time to put an end to neo-colonial method of choosing IMF boss

SP Member of Parliament Ewout Irrgang has today written to Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager to ask him to withhold his support for his French counterpart Christine Lagarde to become the successor to IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn. In Irrgang’s view it’s high time that the position was allocated on the basis of ability rather than nationality.

Ewout IrrgangThe SP has long argued in favour of the democratisation of the World Bank and the IMF. Now that a successor must be sought for recently resigned IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the discussion is once again live. “The fact that the managing director must always by definition be a European and the managing director of the World Bank an American is a neo-colonial tradition and does not belong in these times,” says Irrgang. ”In 2009 the IMF itself came to this conclusion and decided then that the appointment procedure must be open and transparent, and that nationality would not be a criterion. Yet as soon as the first opportunity presents itself, all the old machine comes trundling out again. The Dutch government is guilty in this respect, as it openly supports the candidature of Lagarde, despite its support in the past for a selection which ignores nationality.”

The reasoning now is that the director must be a European because the IMF is playing a key role in solving the Eurozone’s debt crisis, and a European would know all of the leading actors and be well-briefed when it comes to Europe’s problems. To Irrgang, this is nonsense. “It would in reality be a positive move if a person from outside, someone capable of a fresh and independent look at the situation, were to identify the weaknesses in the Eurozone. It would be easier for a non-European to persuade the rest of the world, for which read Asia and the US, of the need for extra support for the European member states, if needed. Then there’s the excessive weakness of the Chinese currency, the fact that the Americans are living off an Asian credit card, and the US deficit, all of which are issues just as important as the crisis in the Eurozone.”

Irrgang is also critical of the hypocrisy of the Europeans, finding it strange that they are arguing for a European IMF managing director on the grounds of the Fund’s involvement in the European debt crisis given that in the past precisely the opposite reasoning has been invoked. The US and the EU have both argued that developing countries, as net debtors, should not exercise any control over the Fund. As Irrgang concludes, “The IMF Council must take the appointment procedure seriously for once and put an end to this undemocratic tradition.”

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