David Prosser: Lagarde is wrong: her nationality is both handicap and advantage


Outlook Her nationality is neither "a handicap nor an advantage", claimed Christine Lagarde as she launched her candidacy for the role of managing director of the International Monetary Fund yesterday. The French Finance minister has many excellent qualities but in this analysis, she is surely mistaken on both counts.

Ms Lagarde's nationality is a clear advantage in that the European Union, which controls almost a third of the votes at the IMF, wants another European to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Assuming Ms Lagarde attracts united EU support, she'll be well on the way to victory.

On the other hand, Ms Lagarde's nationality is a clear handicap, because so many people believe the next IMF leader should not be a European – and certainly not from France – whatever the qualities possessed by the candidate.

Which, then, ought to prevail? Handicap or advantage?

Ms Lagarde's argument, on the face of it, seems persuasive. This should be a meritocratic appointment, she says, rather than a political one. Against that, however, one of the merits that the successful candidate will need to be able to demonstrate is an ability to command the support of the world's emerging economic superpowers – particularly the Bric nations. And because of her nationality, Ms Lagarde does not appear to command that support – the Brics describe the convention of appointing a European to head the IMF as "obsolete".

Now, one might argue that the Brics' insistence that this is the moment to break with convention is as dogmatic as automatically appointing a European, but if that is the way they feel, it makes a difference to the process. There's the democratic consideration: that the IMF's leadership ought better to reflect its membership, especially since it has not previously recognised countries now contributing so much to the global economy (and which will be contributing even more by the end of the term of office of the next IMF boss). There is also the practical consideration: that the Brics have the economic firepower to do their own thing if they believe the IMF is a club of which Europe has no intention of ever giving up control.

What of the European argument that this is a one-off – that with the eurozone sovereign debt crisis presenting the most pressing issues for the IMF, it makes sense for the fund to be led by a European well versed in its intricacies?

Well, one imagines Europe will always be able to find an excuse for appointing one of its own. This argument looks especially specious, however (which may be why Ms Lagarde did not make it yesterday). If the European argument is that one needs to hail from the location of the crisis in order to deal with it effectively, how will the IMF, under European leadership, manage to cope with problems in other parts of the world? Indeed, appointing a European because the European mess requires it looks like a particularly perverse reward for failure.

In short, the Europeans (and the French, in particular) have had a long-enough stint exercising their right to run the IMF. Even leaving aside the fact that they have not always done the job terribly well, the sheer scale of the Brics' economic power commands that authority is shared. Now is the time to do so.

All that said, the Brics have a problem. They may have put on a show of unity in attacking the European prerogative, but they will also have to come up with a credible candidate to counter Ms Lagarde. Nationality matters, but so do the sort of credentials that the Frenchwoman possesses. And in agreeing on that candidate, the Brics, which are a much more disparate group than the EU, may face a bigger challenge even than overturning convention.

So far, the much-admired Agustin Carstens of Mexico is the only declared candidate from the developing economies. He must now build the same coalition of support that Ms Lagarde can depend on. And if he can't do that, the Brics must find someone else.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee