FEPS Fresh Thinking

Even before the next hearing on Friday this week, the allegations against the head of the IMF are obviously challenging for the future of the IMF and, in the international press, discussion continues over possible successors of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. However, we should be aware that the question of the successor would have been in any case on the table in a short while. Upon declaring as a candidate for the French presidential elections, he would have been urged to resign from his role as Managing Director of the IMF.

But as progressives we must also be mindful that, under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF changed profoundly. In a speech during the meeting of last spring he gave the following “revolutionary” statement: “Ultimately, employment and equity are building blocks of economic stability and prosperity, of political stability and peace. This goes to the heart of the IMF’s mandate. It must be placed at the heart of the policy agenda.”

Never had we such a clear statement on employment policy. Never had we such a clear position that not only is monetary policy the instrument to deal with international inequalities but also employment and social policy. Joseph Stiglitz had given credit to Dominique Strauss-Kahn in stating: “He is proving himself a sagacious leader of the IMF. We can only hope that governments and financial markets heed his words.”

So why then should the successor of Dominique Strauss-Kahn be a European again ?

It is more than obvious that the international governance system is in need of profound reform. Clearly, global governance suffers from important weaknesses and needs a real fundamental restructuring. A careful analysis is needed in order to provide adequate institutional settings for balanced growth, strong social pillars together with efficient production, trade and financial mechanisms. (see FEPS journal Queries Issue #4)

The occurrence of such scandal and allegations against one of the leaders of this current international system should not be the moment to claim a different distribution of prestigious posts. Reforming global governance is not only a question of posts; it is a question of responsibility and negotiations.

It should be recognised that we are living in a new multipolar world as a result of the rise of emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and others. For example, Asia’s GDP in the next decade will probably come close to that of the United States and the Euro area together! Building a coalition to push for this process of defining, implementing and monitoring a reformed global governance system should involve all the relevant actors. One actor is often forgotten in the discussions: this is civil society and non-governmental organisations. Such a process needs time. We should continue with the discussions on the reform of global governance.

But it is also noticeable that the personality of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as a convinced European made him definitely one of the most crucial figures in the negotiations for the bail-outs in Greece, Ireland and Portugal and also for the support for non-Eurozone European countries like Hungary. Indeed, he represents the necessary consensus among European leaders. The crisis in Europe is not solved. Europe needs strong support especially with respect of severe internal leadership problems. Losing influence in the IMF at this crucial moment would probably have consequences for the further recovery of Europe. This is the reason why a successor of the current IMF leader should be again a convinced European! However, the question remains: Do we have one?

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  1. There is a growing chorus of voices urging that the next MD of IMF should be from the developing world. You praised the call for “employment and equity” but seem to be rejecting equity by seeking continuation of European monopoly on the post.
    If a European is required to address European interests fairly, does the statement imply that the needs of the developing countries can be addressed fairly only by a MD from the developing countries? Many east Asian countries have not forgotten or forgiven the IMF for the manner in which the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 was handled. It is believed that the large foreign exchange reserves that they hold as self-insurance is because of their past experience with the IMF. These global imbalances were said to be one of the reasons for the 2008 global financial crisis. Could a developing country MD increase confidence of east Asian countries in the IMF and lead to the reduction of global imbalances?
    Should the IMF have a global view or a European one?

  2. kudos Shrawan. A European at the head of the IMF, only to solve the EU’s “internal leadership problems” – that doesn’t seem the way forward in a multipolar world. I would still argue that emerging economies should be in IMF/WB by way of a package deal. It doesn’t make sense to scrap the EU’s prerogative for the IMF post today, while the US keeps the WB president and the IMF’s post of vice-managing director.

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