Mexico fields candidate to lead IMF. Does he have a shot?

Agustin Carstens, the Mexican central bank governor, says that developing countries need a larger say in the policies of the International Monetary Fund.

Carlos Jasso
Mexico's Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens gestures during a news conference in Mexico City May 23, 2011.

With the top IMF position open following the recent scandal, developing nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia are looking for a candidate who can finally break the European stranglehold on the position.

Mexico Central Bank Governor Agustin Carstens appears to have become a leading candidate for the job. While he's not likely to beat a unified European selection of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, he could make it a close race and put the US in a tough spot of choosing between Europe and Mexico.

One thing to remember: Mexican President Felipe Calderón has proven himself to be a skilled negotiator on international issues, whether it's on environmental issues or positioning Mexico for another turn at the UN Security Council. While Lagarde is the favorite, don't doubt that Calderón will play this one well. Even if Carstens doesn't win the IMF job, Mexico won't walk away empty handed from this.

I think Moises Naim is correct in his op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post about the problems with the current IMF selection:

In its daily work, the IMF demands that the governments that seek its financial assistance adopt market principles of efficiency, transparency and meritocracy in exchange for its help. Yet that same institution selects its leader through a process completely at odds with those values. According to the agreement between Western Europe and the United States, the IMF’s top job always goes to a European, while the presidency of the World Bank is reserved for an American. This has been the case since these institutions were created in the mid-1940s, and while the deal might have reflected the world’s realpolitik at the time, it is now obsolete, unacceptable and counterproductive to the cause of global economic stability.

European arguments that the IMF leadership should remain in European hands because of current economic crisis in the Europe are wrong for two reasons. First, as Naim notes, it's hypocritical to say that a European should manage European problems when that has never been the case for crises in Latin America or Asia.

Second, Europe would probably benefit from an outside perspective at this point that isn't worried about how his or her views on European integration and the financial crisis response will play in the local (French) political scene in some future election. Having someone from Latin America, Africa, or Asia leading the organization would make it more likely that the IMF forces Europe to make some uncomfortable but necessary choices.

--- James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant based in Managua, Nicaragua, who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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