The departure of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund has presented the G20 group of advanced and emerging economies with an opportunity and a challenge as they vie to select a new leader.
It is a critical moment of transition because the emerging economies that have been in the shadows during most of the IMF's existence will be dominant in the not-too-distant future. Thus, the openness of the selection process for a new IMF leader will be key not only to the future legitimacy of that institution but to the very notion of cooperative global economic management.
The IMF has always had tremendous analytic depth. It has gained strength under the gifted leadership of Strauss-Kahn as a better capitalized, motivated, and high-performance institution. In the post-crisis period its functions have expanded to include greater “surveillance” of the economic health of systemically important countries. Crucially, it has evolved into an expert secretariat serving the G20 as the latter strives to coordinate policy in pursuit of stability, growth, and sustainability in a world where national interests still reign.
There are a number of candidates from advanced and emerging countries with excellent qualifications and experience in both the technical and political/leadership dimensions of the post. Emerging-economy macro-management has not only improved over time; it is flat out excellent. Superior positioning prior to the recent financial crisis, the effective mid-crisis response, and post-crisis control of fiscal deficits and sovereign debt, not to mention restoring growth, support this view.