Leading Article: The world's top jobs should be open to all candidates

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The Independent Culture
NOT BEFORE time, the Treasury and Downing Street have moved to squash persistent rumours that the Chancellor had entered his name in the lists to be the new head of the International Monetary Fund.

One couldn't have blamed him if he had been interested. Head of the IMF is, after all, arguably the most important economic job in the world, certainly more influential than running a middle-sized economy such as that of Britain, where many of the most vital decisions are made by an independent Bank of England.

This is why the more sophisticated observers believe that Gordon Brown may have been happy to see the rumours of his interest grow. He may not have wanted the job for himself, but he certainly wished the world to look to Britain to fill it.

But then, if the IMF is that important, what on earth is it doing pursuing the selection of its new managing director in this back-room fashion? As with secretary-generalship of Nato, the top job in the United Nations and the presidency of the European Commission, so the managing directorship of the IMF is the end product of a process of wheeling and dealing carried on in the ministerial corridors its member countries.

The US has a claim to the top job in the World Bank, so Europe takes the Fund. France has the present incumbent, Michel Camdessus, so can't expect it again. Italy has just got the presidency of the European Commission; a Dutchman is head of the European Central Bank; Britain has got Nato. So theoretically the IMF should go to a German, if the British can't get in first.

There is a better way. There is absolutely no reason why this job shouldn't be filled through an open short-list considered by a special committee charged with finding the best candidate from whatever quarter. The job should be advertised, the job definition publicised and the views of each of the candidates put on record. There is no shortage, after all, of excellent bankers and politicians from Asia and Latin America, and plenty of views of what the job entails. The Fund can only benefit from being led by someone who has gone through a public process of selection, and who has real exposure as a result.

Gordon Brown would fit the job perfectly. He has strong views about the Fund, a proven record of management, and all the political skills the job requires. If he really doesn't want it, surely we must get someone of equal weight and effectiveness.