David Prosser: Gordon Brown could be exactly the leader that the IMF needs
Friday 15 April 2011
Outlook The idea that Gordon Brown should be the next managing director of the International Monetary Fund is, despite the predictable discomfort of assorted right-wingers, not so outlandish. This is a body that professes its mission to be "fostering global growth and economic stability", two objectives in which the former Prime Minister, whatever the arguments about his record, is undeniably steeped.
Indeed, Mr Brown is well-qualified for the post. His record as Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly stands up to scrutiny on the growth part of the brief – there was not a single quarter ofeconomic contraction during his 10 years at Number 11. As for stability, even if you wish to heap the blame on Mr Brown for helping to engender the climate that led to the crisis by failing to regulate properly, it would be unfair to suggest that he cannot take a very large chunk of the credit for steering the world's financial system back from the brink of total disaster.
It certainly looks as if a vacancy is likely to come up sooner than June 2012, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn is theoretically due to end his term of office at the IMF. Mr Strauss-Kahn now looks almost certain to stand for the French Presidency next year, which would require him to quit ahead of schedule.
Would George Osborne stand in Mr Brown's way? Well, given the contempt that the two men used to show for each other in the hurly-burly of Westminster politics, it doesn't seem likely that the Chancellor would be jumping for joy at the thought of Mr Brown going to Washington. Still, the Coalition Government might take some comfort from the fact that having a Briton in charge at the IMF could be useful. And if other countries were to push for Mr Brown's appointment – such as the US, where the former Prime Minister is still feted for his performance during the financial crisis – Mr Osborne might be persuaded to support his candidacy (or at least not to block it).
What about the question of IMF restructuring? One might argue that appointing Mr Brown would be an odd message from an organisation that has vowed to reform itself so that the largest emerging economies, notably the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India and China), have more influence. Mr Strauss-Kahn himself has said his successor ought to be a non-European (and that the next World Bank head shouldn't be American).
Well, that may be desirable, but it seems unlikely that the IMF's biggest funder, the US, is going to support that step until a wider package of reforms has been agreed. In which case, the Bric nations' interests may be best served by supporting a candidate likely to have reformist instincts sympathetic to their cause. Mr Brown, who has a long track record of exactly that, might be just the ticket.
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