While China, Brazil, Turkey and others clearly see the imminent ouster of IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn as a unique opportunity of geopolitical positioning, the Mexican government is, as usual, asleep on the job.
Both the Brazilian and Chinese foreign ministries issued statements Tuesday saying it was time to end the World War II-era gentlemans agreement that guaranteed Europe the IMF managing directors post. Turkeys finance minister, meanwhile, said he felt fully qualified to succeed Frances DSK, and noted that said many other economists and finance officials from developing nations could say the same.
The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and quite a few other relevant periodicals have mentioned at least three Mexicans who could vie for the prestigious and influential post, but it would seem that both President Felipe Calderón and his secretary of Finance, Ernesto Cordero, are much too busy with next years presidential race to think about pushing for a Mexican hopeful.
There is, first and foremost, the governor of the central bank, Banco de México, Agustín Carstens. Not only was Carstens a successful Finance minister and is now a respected central banker, but he was deputy managing director of the IMF. It would be really tough to come up with finer credentials than that.
The other two being mentioned are former president Ernesto Zedillo, who beyond being a Yale professor has been actively involved in geopolitics and particularly in environmental protection issues; and Guillermo Ortiz, the former central banker who is currently chairman of Mexicos largest Mexican-owned bank and third in the system, Banorte.
The government could argue that Carstens is basically indispensable at Banco de México. But it would be missing the point, which is that the opportunity is indeed unique to enhance the countrys global reputation, as a means of counteracting the loss of prestige due to the drug wars and the prevailing violence. Besides, the central bank is such a well-oiled machine that any of the deputy governors (except Manuel Ramos Francia, who has not been confirmed by the Senate) could take over for Carstens without any major upheavals.
By pushing Carstens candidacy, Mexico would thus join other developing nations in pressing to strip Europe of its traditional hold on the top job at the IMF, as pressure mounted on the embattled DSK to quit.
For starters, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner added what may be a decisive voice to the debate when he said during a speech in New York that Strauss-Kahns arrest on sexual assault charges means he is obviously not in the position to run the IMF. Geithner called for acting managing director John Lipsky, the agencys No. 2, to be more formally recognized as the IMFs interim head.
It was the most explicit statement yet by a U.S. official about the matter, and while not a direct call for Strauss-Kahns resignation, it added to the sense that his grip on the job is slipping.
China, Brazil and Turkey, three of the large, fast-growing and influential emerging economies, are using DSKs arrest to argue that his successor be chosen by merit and not geography, setting the tone for a potentially divisive battle over the IMFs executive suite.
Predictably, European officials, struggling through a continental debt crisis and relying on the IMF for help, insist they retain the managing directors job at least for the next few years.
Our hope is that in the coming period, IMF heads will come from developing countries like Turkey, like Russia, Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said. As far as myself, I dont have even the tiniest shortage in terms of experience of knowledge.
This week, there were other high-level calls for DSK to step down. The finance ministers of Austria and Spain said he should consider resigning given the severity of the charges and the likelihood of a long legal battle.
At a gathering of European finance ministers in Brussels, Austrian finance chief Maria Fekter said Strauss-Kahn has to figure out for himself that he is hurting the institution.
Spains finance chief, Elena Salgado, called the allegations against the IMF chief extraordinarily serious and added that if I had to show my solidarity and support for someone, it would be toward the woman who has been assaulted.