Tuesday, April 26, 2011

How about Manmohan Singh as IMF chief?

British prime minister David Cameron a few days ago had taken the stand that his predecessor Gordon Brown is not fit to take over as the chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and that this time round the post should go to someone from China or India. Cameron's objection to Brown is on grounds of economic incompetency. Cameron says that Brown did not tell the people that there was an economic crisis and such a man could not be trusted with an important job like that of the chief of IMF, considered the lending institution of the last resort.
Chinese president Hu Jintao or prime minister Wen Jiabao may not really fit the bill because the job would involve dealing with smooth-talking and cunning leaders of developed economies, now in decline and in the dumps of course, and the Chinese are too reserved, unequipped linguistically and ootherwise, to deal with the politicos and experts from the bad west lands. Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh seems to fit the bill better because he has now mastered the art of dealing with Western political leaders for quite some time now. His Cambridge connection is an added advantage. He also mixes in an intellectually cunning fashion his belief in an open market economy along with state interventions in the economy. It could also be some sort of revenge for him and for India if Singh were to impose IMF conditions for bail-out packages to developed countries. It should not come as a surprise if some time in the near future the United States, with its inflationary budgetary deficit, were to turn to the IMF for emrgency economic aid.
Singh's left critics would not lose the opportunity to point out that in that kind of a situation, Singh with his soft corner for the US, will relax all of IMF's conditions and offer genereous help to Washington! But it would be an interesting drama to watch.
Many would of course may think that the prime minister of the largest democracy and the second most populous country in the world cannot be the IMF chief because then it would lower the dignity of the position of the powerful post of the Indian prime minister. It might be useful to remember that back in the 1950s, many felt that Nehru would have been the ideal candidate for the post of UN secertary-general! Of course, Nehru would not have considered it at all. Perhaps, Singh's admirers might say that he too would not consider the idea and that he would insitead want his friend and planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to be considered for the slot if Cameron's suggestion will be taken seriously in the first place.
But Singh has an advantage over Ahluwalia. The job requires political skills and political networking and that is Singh's forte. The IMF chief need not necessarily be an economist's job. It is the work of an economist-administrator and Singh has plenty of experience as one, both at the governmental and political levels.
Of course, the crucial question is whether the IMF will remain relevant because there is so much talk about restructuring the Bretton Woods system that was put in place at the end of the Second World War by Keynes and company. India demand for restructuring of the global financial architecture is restricted to increase in India's quota at the IMF in proportion its new-found economic clout.

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