Lipsky: Christine Lagarde 'excellent choice' for IMF

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Media captionJohn Lipsky says the IMF will deal with the leadership issue "expeditiously"

The acting managing director of the IMF, John Lipsky, has said Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, would be "an excellent choice" to head the organisation.

Mr Lipsky has been temporarily in charge of the International Monetary Fund since Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on suspicion of rape.

Christine Lagarde has also been praised by both Italy and Sweden.

Singapore's finance minister also appears to be gaining support.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam has been backed as a possible choice by the Philippine finance minister and his Thai counterpart.

Complex vote

In order to become managing director of the IMF, individuals must be proposed by one of its 187 member countries.

Developing nations are keen that the next IMF chief should come from outside of Europe.

Other potential candidates from developing countries could include South Africa's Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and Turkey's former minister of economic affairs, Kemal Dervis.

However, since the body's formation in 1944, a European has filled the post and European officials are eager for the next leader to be one of their own.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has already said that the post should go to a European.

Europe and the US together still control almost 50% of the votes, although the voting system is in the process of being changed to reflect the increasing power of the emerging markets.

The US has not yet indicated who it might favour.

"We haven't taken a position on any candidate," said Lael Brainard, US Treasury undersecretary for international affairs.

Mr Lipsky, who is due to step down from the Fund at the end of August, said the field was wide open: "I'm sure we'll hear many names. I'm encouraged, I've heard mention many very talented professionals."

But Christine Lagarde has been tipped as the current favourite, a situation that Mr Lipsky appeared to acknowledge in an interview with the BBC's economics editor Stephanie Flanders.

"I have the very highest regard for Ms Lagarde and I'm sure like many other candidates she would be an excellent choice," he said.

Coming battle

Possible IMF successors

IMF frontrunners

There is a range of possible contenders for the top job at the International Monetary Fund. Find out about some of them

Christine Lagarde

Christine Lagarde

French finance minister


French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, 55, looks like the leading candidate with backing from France, the UK and Germany. A flawless English speaker, she was voted best finance minister in Europe by the Financial Times in 2009. However, her nationality may count against her as several IMF chiefs have been French.

Agustin Carstens

Agustin Carstens

Governor Bank of Mexico


Mr Carstens, 52, is to be nominated by the Mexican finance ministry. He has spent most of his career as an economic policymaker in his home country, becoming governor of the Bank of Mexico in January 2010 after previously serving as the bank's chief economist. He had a successful stint at the IMF from 2003 to 2006.

Trevor Manuel

Trevor Manuel

Ex Finance minister

South Africa

Mr Manuel, 55, is well-respected in global financial circles, having served as finance minister of South Africa from 1996 to 2009. Born in Cape Town under apartheid, he was imprisoned repeatedly by the South African government for political activities in the late 1980s. He has yet to announce his intention to run.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Tharman Shanmugaratnam

Finance minister/deputy prime minister


The 54-year-old has been the country's finance minister since 2007 and on Wednesday added the new job of deputy prime minister. With degrees from the London School of Economics and Harvard. He recently became the first Asian to hold the post of chairman of the IMF's policy advisory committee.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Montek Singh Ahluwalia

Economic adviser to India's PM


Mr Ahluwalia, 67, is an influential economic adviser to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and has been a key figure in the country's economic reforms from the mid-1980s onwards. He supports open markets and has pushed the government to end fuel price controls and remove barriers to foreign business. His age may count against him.

Peer Steinbrueck

Peer Steinbrueck

Former German finance minister


Mr Steinbrueck, 62, is a long-shot to become IMF chief, in part because he alienated allies of Germany with his fiery rhetoric while serving as finance minister in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" from 2005 to 2009. He also alienated the United States by openly blaming it for the global financial crisis.

Axel Weber

Axel Weber

Former head of Bundesbank


Mr Weber, 54, stunned Europe by announcing in February that he would be stepping down early from his post as head of the German central bank, the Bundesbank. Like Mr Steinbrueck, Mr Weber has a reputation as a loose cannon. Both Germans' chances may have been sunk by their government's support for Ms Lagarde.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown

Former UK Prime Minister


The 60-year old former UK prime minister and finance minister has long been seen as a candidate for the IMF job or another big international financial post. But his successor David Cameron - whose support he would need - has dismissed him as a "deficit denier", adding that it was time to look beyond Europe.

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The IMF is a crucial part of the world financial system, along with the World Bank.

It represents the interests of its 187 member countries and has played a central role in the eurozone crisis, lending billions of dollars to help bail-out Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Mr Lipsky would not be drawn on the battle that is emerging between European and emerging economies over who should get the job.

"This is an institution that works best in a collaborative, cooperative way. Most decisions are taken by consensus at the level of the executive board.

"So I'd expect, in the end, there will be general agreement around a talented, effective new managing director."

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