Experience matters

Experience and qualifications matter, though of course they aren’t the only factor in success. But understanding the issues could be argued to be even more important at the IMF, which deals with complex topics in macroeconomic management, than at other international institutions.

Christine Lagarde, despite her tenure as French finance minister, came in with limited understanding of macroeconomics from her experience in the legal world. Her departure presents the world an opportunity to look at candidates for the IMF top job based on their merits. So which of the candidates being mentioned in the media have the most relevant experience and qualifications?

The following table summarises experience and qualifications of six frequently mentioned candidates along six criteria.

Partial points are awarded to Ms. Georgieva on experience in low- and middle-income countries because while she worked on these types of countries at the World Bank, her only period working in a low- or middle-income country was as an academic in Bulgaria. Mr. Rajan also gets partial points for management within an intergovernmental setting, as he was Chief Economist at the IMF, which while intergovernmental in nature, his department was supposed to be insulated from intergovernmental negotiations.

Along a set of clear experience criteria only José Antonio Ocampo has experience in all the areas that might be considered most relevant for the IMF Managing Director post. The presumptive post-holder (only because of the carve up of international institutional leadership positions), Ms. Georgieva, fares worst with these criteria.

Such a quick analysis might give countries pause about rushing to install Ms. Georgieva. Asia and Latin America have very qualified candidates on paper (even beyond those that have made this short list). And Mr. Ocampo is the only one who has already set out his agenda for how to reform the Fund. Perhaps serious consideration, rather than rubber stamping, is in order?

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