Wonders will never cease; they will only increase. Enter a 62-year-old man. He is married to a beautiful woman and is a father of four from a previous marriage. He is multi-millionaire. He is leading in opinion polls which suggest he could be president next year.
His salary – minus perks - is more than President Obama’s. He leads a jet set life. His name is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, CEO of the International Monetary Fund. He is on record as telling a journalist that he worries that some woman will be raped in some parking lot and then be given half a million dollars to frame him.
He says this because it is well known that he likes women, which is why he has been nicknamed the Great Seducer. And, he knows already there is a woman who claims he attempted to rape her. But DSK, as headline writers, admirers and critics alike know him, shreds his reputation, ends his job and terminates his march to the presidency in a hotel room in New York.
We say he does this because his lawyers have argued that they intend to argue that whatever happened in that hotel was consensual. But what got out first is that DSK, unshaven and disheveled, was arrested and charged in a Manhattan court with criminal sexual assault. That is legal jargon for rape. The rest, as they say, is history.
However, the macabre fall of Strauss-Kahn has served to bring into focus the IMF and especially its leadership. Conservative politicians and columnists in the US are already questioning the need or relevance of the institution. In Asia, they want to see somebody from the developing world take the helm at IMF. In Europe formidable names are emerging as possible successors of DSK.
Our position is that just as the tomfoolery of Mr Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank was not reason to question the institution, similarly the shenanigans of Strauss-Kahn must be separated from the institution. It is generally agreed that Strauss-Kahn, despite having an affair with an employee, brought respectability to the IMF. It is also a fact that the IMF has been a stabilising factor in Europe or the Eurozone since the economic downturn of 2009 and in the current crisis that has seen the European Union go to the rescue of Greece and Ireland and is watching closely the unfolding events in Portugal, Spain and Greece again. It is highly unlikely that IMF will do gown with Strauss-Kahn.
What needs to be addressed is whether it is in order that the head of the World Bank should be picked by Americans, meaning it is an American, and why the head of the IMF should be picked by Europeans which means he or she must be a European. The two are global institutions and the case should be made for credible persons from the developing world to lead either of them.
We say credible because we believe in the world of global finance, there are distinguished people from the developing world who are capable of taking charge of either institution or both. We are calling for a competitive and transparent process, devoid of the politics of Europeans and Americans, of selecting the heads of the two institutions.
We are saying that the so-called emerging markets of India and South Africa, for example, or Brazil and China have considerable economic clout which cannot be ignored by the rest of the world and they deserve a chance to break the domination of the World Bank and IMF by Americans and Europeans respectively since the end of World War II.
We do not, however, begrudge France’s Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, her emergence as Europe’s favourite to take over from her disgraced friend at IMF. She has impeccable credentials as a finance minister and politician and is well respected among EU shapers of financial policy. And, of course, it would be wonderful to have a woman take charge of a global financial institution for the very first time.
Who can ever forget that she was reminded by Sir David Frost on his Aljazeera show that she had once said that women are better politicians and better business people because they inject less libido or testosterone into the equation? She reminded Frost that those were not her words, but a French poet’s and that she did not use them to exclude the boys!
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