The IMF oddsmakers

By Felix Salmon
May 18, 2011

The Economist has one list of William Hill odds for who’s going to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as managing director of the IMF; William Hill itself has a slightly different list. I would be much obliged if a reader in the UK would please pop down to William Hill for me and place a lot of money on Christine Lagarde at 20-1, as she’s listed on the William Hill site, or even at 14-1, where the Economist has her.

Kemal Dervis is the clear favorite here. But I don’t buy it: for one thing, the single most important issue facing the managing director of the IMF right now is Greece. And the bad blood between Greece and Turkey is so deep and so ingrained that I simply can’t see how any Turk could be credibly impartial on the subject of Greece.

Second-favorite is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who at 67 is too old for the job. He’s followed by the top EU official on the list, Axel Weber. Again, given that the head of the IMF is going to be essentially brokering a deal between Greece, on the one hand, and Germany, on the other, it doesn’t make sense to me to put a German in that job.

Also near the top of the list are Gordon Brown, who’s already been ruled out by David Cameron; John Lipsky, who’s American and therefore a non-starter for anything but a temporary position; and Peer Steinbrück, who’s also German. Interestingly, Arminio Fraga is not on the list at all, and neither is Turkish finance minister Mehmet Simsek, one of the few people to openly lobby for the position.

If it were possible to short these odds, I’d happily short all Turks, Germans, and North Americans, including Mark Carney and Agustin Carstens. But since it’s not, I’ll make do with a long bet on Lagarde. Anybody willing to help me out?

Update: William Hill have now tightened Lagarde in to 10/1. Still worth a £25 bet, though. Thank you Matt!

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