‘Lobbying the missing link for IMF job’

South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel.

South African Planning Minister Trevor Manuel.

Published Jun 10, 2011


More could have been done to persuade Europeans that the next leader of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) should come from an emerging country, Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel said on Friday.

“I think a lot more could be done, a lot more should have been done. A lot more should have been done to persuade Europeans that this birthright is not a birthright that should find resonance in an institution as important as the IMF,” Manuel told journalists in Rosebank.

“If because President Jacob Zuma happens to be Zulu speaking and we as South Africans say the president henceforth shall be a Zulu speaker, it will be quite bizarre.”

South Africa and other developing countries wanted the next IMF head to come from an emerging economy. Manuel was touted as a contender in the race - but he was adamant on Friday he was not available.

“Today is the closing date, I certainly haven't put my hat into the ring,” he said.

Manuel seemed certain that the candidate set to replace former IMF boss, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, would be a European.

“The European Union has decided on a European candidate and they must be about 35 percent of the shareholding and so it is very difficult to contest against that reality, because if they mobilise just a few percent above that, they have the majority,” he said.

Manuel, South Africa's former finance minister, said it was important to continue to campaign for change in the IMF.

“I think one must begin to put emphasis on changes in the global economy because there clearly is a contradiction between an economy that is as globalised as the one we live in now and institutions that are still premised on the events of 1944 when decisions about them were taken.”

The IMF was founded at a conference in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944 and came into being in December 1945.

The institution had to move “in tune” with the global economy. A “business as usual” approach was a setback for the world, he said.

“I think it's disappointing that the lessons of the recession are not taken. I'm saying this without rancour. It's not as though I have... gotten into the starting blocks, put on my spikes and tried to race for the finish line, the finish line being an IMF job.

“The key issue is that if it's business as usual, then the world is going to be poorer for it and that's something that all of us need to be discussing.”

He called for the matter to be “de-personalised” and also emphasised that his stance was not “anti-European”.

“... let's focus on the issues in the global economy, how will it create more employment, how will it re-balance itself, how will it work out the issues that carried it into the recession in 2008

and what happens on the other side of that.

“My point is not an anti-European point, my point is that you must have decision making that's premised on ability not only to manage institutions but also to effect certain changes in the way in which decisions are taken and the way in which the global economy must re-balance itself.”

He said the major risks to the global economy were from Europe. There were “huge imbalances” in the global economy and a “different head” was needed to deal with them.

“It will be most unfortunate if we ended up with a European bound by EU 1/8European Union 3/8 decisions about what to do because the major problems are likely to be in Europe still.

“The sense that I have about the present is that the great recession of 2008/2009 hasn't worked itself out of the system yet.

“So it's not just about the individual, it's also substantial reform of the institutions and the emphasis it gives to various aspects of global development right now,” he said.

The two contenders for the spot remained French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Mexico's central bank governor, Agustín Carstens.

Manuel said he had never asked for the job, it was not one that he would take as an individual but would “hazard” a guess that the South African government and the African Union would have backed him, if required. - Sapa

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