Stanley Fischer, the governor of the Bank of Israel has announced his candidature for the top job at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), challenging Mexican central bank governor Agustín Carstens and French finance minister Christine Lagarde.
Mr. Fischer’s decision to join the race came as a surprise although he had been the second-in-command at the IMF before. Nominations for the post closed on Friday midnight.
IMF’s bylaws limit the age of the managing director at 65 years, and Mr. Fischer is 67. The requirement however, can be set aside by the multilateral lending agency’s executive board.
“There arose an extraordinary and unplanned opportunity, perhaps one that will never happen again, to compete for the head of the IMF, which after much deliberation I decided I wish to follow through on. This, even though it is a complicated process and despite the possible barriers”, said Mr. Fisher on Saturday.
IMF’s managing director’s position has been lying vacant after the present boss was arrested in New York last month over an alleged sexual assault of a hotel housemaid.
Mr. Fisher was appointed the first deputy managing-director of IMF in 1994, a post he held until 2001. He was born in what is now Zambia, and was an academic economist before he became an American citizen. In 2005 he took Israeli citizenship to become the governor of its central bank. By all accounts, he’s a long-shot candidate since the European Union, which holds one-third voting power of the board, is rallying behind the French finance minister.
To his credit, Mr. Fisher has guided the IMF through some of the most turbulent and controversial lending periods, including the Russian and Asian financial crisis of 1997-98.
Although Mr. Fischer is widely respected as a technocrat, it was difficult to see where his support would come from, said Eswar Prasad, a former senior IMF official now at the Cornell University.
“He is likely to be seen as essentially an American candidate, which endears him neither to Europe nor to the emerging market. There is little love lost between Fischer and the Asian emerging markets, who view him as the IMF’s battering ram during the Asian financial crisis”, said Prof. Prasad.
America, though may look at Mr. Fischer’s nomination favourably, were likely to focus on the deputy-director general’s position at the IMF, Prof. Prasad said. John Lipsky, the present incumbent retires in August.
Historically Europe has been supplying the IMF chief while an American heads the World Bank, with the second-in-command position at the fund being chaired by an American. The emerging countries, although criticised the practice, failed to rally behind a single candidate to challenge European domination.
In 2000, Mr. Fisher had received nomination from a group of African countries for IMF’s managing directorship, but chose to withdraw his candidature later.