No change in how the IMF picks its leader

May 19, 2011
one-page factsheet on the selection process for its top job.

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The IMF has released a one-page factsheet on the selection process for its top job, which is not very easy to understand. But the main message is reasonably clear: we have a process for choosing the managing director which we’ve followed in the past, and we’re not going to make any indication that the process will be any different this time around.

There are basically two ways that the managing director can be chosen. There’s the smoke-filled-room approach which has always been used in the past, and which will, it seems, be used this time too. Here’s how the IMF describes it:

An Executive Director may submit a nomination for the position. When more than one candidate is nominated, as has been the case in recent years, the Executive Board aims to reach a decision by consensus.

Alternatively, there could be a more qualifications-driven approach, as suggested by Mohamed El-Erian, with “an internationally balanced committee” evaluating applicants based on qualifications alone (rather than nationality), and putting forward two or three finalists for the board to vote on, based on the same criteria.

The official criteria make no mention of nationality, of course — but they don’t need to. Since we’re now officially using the same process that was in place in 2007, it’s reasonable to assume that the same kind of candidate is going to win. In other words, Christine Lagarde — who has all of DSK’s qualifications, plus the added bonus of being a woman. Maybe next time we’ll have a transparent selection process. This time it’ll be business as usual.

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