WASHINGTON: French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was chosen Tuesday to lead the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will immediately confront a European debt crisis that threatens the global economy.
Lagarde will be the first female managing director of the 66-year-old global lending organization and the 11th European. Next week, she will begin a five-year term.
Among her challenges, she will have to prod fellow Europeans to take painful steps to prevent a default by Greece. She’ll face pressure from developing nations that want a greater voice at the IMF. And she’ll be looked upon to restore the IMF’s reputation, which was tarred by a scandal involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the man she’s replacing. Strauss-Kahn resigned last month after being charged with sexually assaulting a New York City hotel housekeeper. He has denied the charges.
“I am deeply honored by the trust placed in me,” Lagarde said in a statement in Paris after the vote Tuesday. “I would like to thank the fund’s global membership warmly for the broad-based support I have received.” Lagarde was chosen by consensus, the IMF said in a statement. Her selection became all but assured once the Obama administration endorsed her earlier Tuesday. Hours later, the IMF’s 24-member board voted to appoint her. She had also won support from Europe, China and Russia. Mexico’s Agustin Carstens challenged her, but his candidacy never caught fire.
In an interview on French television after the announcement, Largarde said her first priority is to unify the IMF’s staff of 2,500 employees and 800 economists and restore their confidence in the organization.
She also said she wants to meet with Strauss-Kahn, if permitted to by the US government.
Lagarde, 55, will be the first IMF leader who is not an economist. She led the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie before entering French politics in 2005. She has spent much of her career in the United States and speaks impeccable English.
– Associated Press