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George Osborne backs Christine Lagarde for second term at IMF

George Osborne has backed Christine Lagarde’s attempt for a second term as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

The chancellor nominated the former French finance minister for another four years as head of the Washington-based organisation, saying she was an outstanding leader who had the vision “to help steer the global economy through the years ahead”.

Osborne’s backing for Lagarde in 2011 was considered a major coup by her supporters along with the support from German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble.

The chancellor said on Wednesday: “I nominated Christine for her first term in May 2011 and since then she has exhibited outstanding leadership, skilfully steering the Fund through big economic challenges, while working hard to deliver historic reforms to the IMF.

“At a time when the world faces what I’ve called a dangerous cocktail of risks, I believe Christine has the vision, energy and acumen to help steer the global economy through the years ahead.”

Traditionally the heads of the IMF and World Bank have been drawn from the US and Europe. The current head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is a US citizen and was nominated by Barack Obama.

There have been calls in recent years for the IMF to look for a leader from the developing world, but Lagarde’s championing of reforms to the IMF’s constitution – allowing for greater representation by poorer countries – is likely to be enough to deflect accusations of western bias.

However, she could come under pressure to drop out of the race after she was told to stand trial in France because of a multimillion-euro government payment to a controversial tycoon who supported Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 presidential race.

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Lagarde has been accused of “negligence by a person in a position of public authority” over the award of more than €400m (£308m) to Bernard Tapie in a case against the French public bank Crédit Lyonnais, which he accused of undervaluing his stake in Adidas

Prosecutors said Lagarde, at the time Sarkozy’s finance minister, referred the long-running case to arbitration and signed off the payout.

The IMF will want to steer clear of controversy after Lagarde’s predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn was forced to resign following a sex scandal.

Awaiting the next IMF boss are a series of severe tests, including a global economic slowdown that several senior economists have warned could be a forerunner of a 2008-style crash.

As lender of last resort, the IMF helped bail out Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Hungary and Iceland after the financial crash and could be called on to make another series of loans should the situation deteriorate.


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