Fischer says economist needed for top IMF job

13th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Israeli central banker Stanley Fischer on Sunday said the next IMF boss should be an economist, an implicit dig at French lawyer and Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, the top candidate for the job.

"In normal times, you can probably rely on intuition," Fischer told The Wall Street Journal in an interview.

But Fischer, making an 11th-hour bid for the job, said there are currently "serious economic issues" that need to be addressed, and that IMF staffers often offer conflicting advice.

"Without having that (economic) training, it's very hard to know who's right and who's wrong. You have to have a framework to think through the problems," he told the newspaper.

Although Fischer never mentioned Lagarde by name, his comments were obviously directed at the popular French Finance Minister, who has been campaigning for the top job for weeks, and has all but locked down the nomination.

Lagarde has been France's finance minister since 2007, and although a lawyer and not an economist by training, she has now held the job longer than anyone else.

Fischer, who has dual Israeli and US citizenship, has been an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chief economist at the World Bank and for seven years, the number two official at the IMF, a tenure that included the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s.

He also received high marks for keeping the Israeli economy growing during the worldwide financial crisis.

Both Lagarde and Mexican central banker Agustin Carstens, another well-respected economist, have been trotting the globe trying to lock down commitments from the leaders of various countries who will play a key role in the decision.

"I believe the case needs to be looked on its merits and not on political factors," Fischer said in the interview. "We'll have a far more reasonable contest that way than if just left it to who can travel around the world most often."

Fischer is a longshot, however. His Israeli citizenship means he can expect little support in the Arab world, and his American citizenship means it will be tough to win votes from some emerging world economies.

At the same time, Lagarde has secured most of the all-important EU-member nation votes for the post, which traditionally has gone to a European.

© 2011 AFP

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