Stanley Fischer has cast doubt over Christine Lagardes appointment as the new head of the IMF. She is the eleventh consecutive European to take the role.
Fischers own bid for the job was rejected last month, superficially because of a 65-year age restriction. The 67-year-old describes the rule as archaic and says it should be changed.
Given the IMFs key role in resolving the Greek crisis, Euromoney asked the Bank of Israel governor about Lagardes proximity to one of the main interested parties in the Greek debt crisis French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
Starting as managing director with Christine Lagardes background is not an advantage at this point, says Fischer in an interview, the day after the IMF announced Lagarde, former finance minister of France, would be its new managing director.
Lagarde was until last week Sarkozys finance minister, while French banks are among those most exposed to Greek debt. Some say this has already been evident in the French Presidents proposals on dealing with the debt crisis.
Its not a convincing argument to say the main problem facing the IMF is dealing with Europe, and therefore we need a European as managing director. There are arguments to say there should be some distance between the region concerned and the people who have to decide how the Fund deals with it, Fischer says.
You need someone who is able to look coldly at each situation, including today's situation.
Stanley Fischer was in many ways ideally suited to the job: formerly the PhD supervisor to US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Fischer played a key role in the 1990s Asia debt crisis, when he was the IMFs first deputy managing director.
But the IMFs executive board decided there was not enough support for Fischer for the board to recommend a change to the Funds by-law on the age of its managing director. Europe has control of more than a third of votes on the IMFs board, and the continent lobbied for a candidate of its own.
Lagarde stated at the time of her interview for the job as IMF head: I will not shrink from the necessary candor and toughness in my discussions with European leaders.
Read more on the IMF leadership race and Euromoneys interview with Stanley Fischer in the August edition.