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Agence France Presse reported last week that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, France's candidate to head the IMF, told Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that he wants to reform the IMF--including how the head of the international lender of last resort is selected. Marco Aurelio Garcia, Lula's advisor for international policy, briefed reporters after the two men met. According to AFP:

He said the Socialist party leader and former French finance minister told Lula change was needed in the IMF in "three key areas," including how member states were represented, how its managing director is selected and its operating program....
Strauss-Kahn after his meeting with Lula told reporters, "If I am a candidate, it is because I want to change the IMF."

If the report is correct (and as a former AFP reporter I am biased in believing that they got it right), the second item of the three-part reform agenda is of particular interest. Plans for changing how member countries are represented in the Fund have been on the official agenda for some time now, while debate on the operating program is a hardy perennial. But a pledge to change how the IMF selects its managing director (the Fund’s equivalent of a World Bank president), would be breaking new ground. A more transparent, competitive and merit-based selection process for the heads of global institutions is crucial if these organizations are to have the legitimacy needed to address 21st Century challenges.
CGD’s initiative on The Future of the World Bank, including a recent survey that garnered responses from more than 700 people in 71 nations (It's One World Out There: The Global Consensus on Selecting the World Bank's Next President) have stressed the importance of opening up the process for selecting the World Bank president. It remains to be seen if the Bank's new president, Robert Zoellick, will take up this challenge and propose reforms to the Bank’s board. Strikingly, he has not addressed the question.
The need for an open selection process is no less pressing at the Fund. So it's encouraging indeed when the leading candidate to become the new head of the IMF is reported to have promised the president of one of the largest and most influential developing countries that reforming the selection process at the IMF will be one of his top three agenda items. That's great, if indeed it is true. One possible test: a public affirmation of this pledge from Strauss-Kahn himself. Now THAT would be news.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.