Dear candidate… tell us what you think!

The next IMF boss will have a lot of power – a soapbox to pronounce on economic issues, hundreds of billions of dollars lending to force crisis-stricken countries to change their policies, a vast team of policy wonks to promote the ideas they like. Isn’t it time they were held a bit more accountable to the citizens of the world?

One way to start would be to get all the candidates to answer questions in public – on TV, to parliamentarians, direct to citizens – the more opportunities the better.  But what questions should we ask?  A colleague suggested they should tell us what they think about major economic issues of the day. Here’s a list drawn from chapter 5 of the UN’s excellent World Economic and Social Survey 2010:

“Instead of increasing investment and growth, capital and financial market liberalization had the opposite effect by increasing volatility and uncertainty, which negatively impacted the long-term investment that is critical for structural transformation and development.” Do you agree?

“Reforming global rules in order to re-establish the capacity of public authorities both globally and nationally to curb excessive private risk-taking and ensure that finance serves the real sector,instead of the other way around, is an urgent priority.” Will you back the efforts of national authorities to control volatile capital flows?

“It is necessary to end the competition over foreign investment using regulatory and tax policies that characterized individual country policies in the past three decades.” How do you think this race to the bottom can be reversed?

Let’s hope civil society groups, parliaments and the media can add to this list – and force the candidates to give decent answers – how else can a truly merit-based process operate?

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