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S.Africa’s Manuel: IMF job not my decision

Former South African finance minister Trevor Manuel, tipped by some as a candidate to be the next managing director of the IMF, said Monday it is not up to him whether he gets the top job.

In his first public comments on the vacancy, Manuel told public broadcaster SABC that the issue of his candidacy had been raised but he avoided declaring his interest in heading up the International Monetary Fund.

“The issue has been raised but left unresolved,” he said.

“It’s not (my) decision. There are all kinds of issues. I think that for any candidate it’s fundamentally important to do what the Europeans are doing, to build a critical mass of support.”

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has emerged as Europe’s choice to lead the IMF after former head Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned following his arrest on sexual assault charges in the United States.

Emerging countries have called for the next managing director to be chosen from a non-European country, ending Europe’s 65-year hold on the IMF’s top job — a call Manuel repeated Monday.

“It has to be wrong for multilateral bodies to have recruitment processes where birthright is more important than ability,” he said.

Developing countries have not, however, joined forces behind a single candidate for the post.

Besides Manuel, names mentioned include Indian planner Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Mexican central banker Agustin Carstens and Leszek Balcerowicz, the pioneer of Poland’s transition from communism to the free market.

The IMF has said nominations, opening today, will run until June 10, with the aim of completing the process by June 30.

Manuel, who now heads South Africa’s National Planning Commission, is internationally respected as an astute economic brain and a darling of investors after his 13 years at the head of the finance ministry.

Appointed finance minister by former president Nelson Mandela in 1996 at the age of 40, the civil engineer — who had no formal economics training — announced a budget surplus a decade later, the first in 30 years.