The long-standing deal between the great powers was that the US Government would appoint the head of the World Bank, and the Europeans would get the head of the IMF. Hopes that this cosy arrangement might unravel with the departure of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz came to naught, with the recent uncontested appointment of former US Trade Representative, Robert B. Zoellick.
However the surprise resignation of IMF Managing Director Rodrigo Rato has re-opened the issue. While the UK government backed Zoellick, they seem to have doubts about another European heading up the IMF, according to this evening's Financial Times story: UK calls to open up IMF chief selection
Britain added its voice to calls from developing countries against the French-led drive to position Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the sole candidate to succeed Rodrigo Rato as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.
Alistair Darling, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, will on Tuesday urge European colleagues to apply the brakes to the selection of a new IMF chief and not to be bounced into making a quick decision.
“The UK believes there should be an open and transparent process for selecting the next managing director of the IMF,” a British Treasury spokesman said, adding that the successful candidate could well be a non-European. “The UK will be pressing the fund’s board to set out publicly criteria and a timetable for the appointment process.”
At a board meeting on Monday afternoon in Washington, directors from the Middle East and Latin America were set to lead calls for an open global competition for the job. The post has traditionally been held by a European under an unwritten convention by which the US in turn chooses one of its citizens to be president of the World Bank. Some were clearly infuriated by what they saw as a move by the Europeans to pre-empt discussion about the succession by rallying around a single candidate.
Strauss-Kahn is by no means an unworthy candidate. But an open competition would give other suitable candidates a chance, especially those from developing countries. They might just know a thing or two about development that a senior European politician doesn't.