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International Monetary Fund leadership discussed

A man reads newspapers with coverage of the U.S. arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on May 16, 2011 in Paris, France.

Kai Ryssdal: When a company's biggest shareholder weighs in on a topic, that does tend to tilt the discussion in one direction or another. That's exactly what's happened with the International Monetary Fund.

Last night, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said it's clear Dominique Strauss-Kahn can't run the IMF anymore. So now, as the criminal process unfolds in Manhattan, the search is on for a suitable replacement. Suitable here being defined as acceptable to everybody. No easy trick in international finance.

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports from London.


Stephen Beard: The IMF's mission is to help countries cope with a financial crisis -- lending them money, giving them advice. Economist Andrew Hilton says under Strauss-Kahn, the IMF became more vital than ever in the turmoil of the past three years.

Andrew Hilton: Dominique Strauss-Kahn is one of the most effective leaders that the IMF has had. And he's been particularly effective in pushing for more lending more quickly to more countries.

Historically, the IMF focussed on places like Africa and Latin America. But Strauss-Kahn swiftly got it involved in the Eurozone debt crisis, bailing out Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Big emerging countries like China now say it's time for a change. They want a non-European to run the IMF.

Martin Wolf of the Financial Times says the Europeans won't wear that.

Martin Wolf: The idea that they would allow some outsider to make decisions which have such profound and intimate implications for all of them is -- I suspect -- going to prove quite horrifying to them.

He says the Europeans will insist on the top job at the IMF remaining in European hands. And they'll probably get their way.

Wolf: The Europeans have about 30 percent of the votes. They're far and away the biggest block. With the United States, they're close to half. And, I would suspect that the U.S. will not oppose them on this.

If there is a race for the job, the frontrunner would the French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. She's widely admired, but, says Wolf, lacks Strauss-Kahn's skills as an economist.

In London, I'm Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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