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Unnatural selection

Professional headhunters might have avoided the farce surrounding the appointment of the IMF’s new managing director. But the politics of who runs the IMF and the World Bank are complex, and there’s no way to please all of the shareholders all of the time.

Horst Köhler

"Change happens". That's the message the US Mint has chosen to advertise the new coin it hopes will replace America's venerable dollar bill. The same slogan could be just as well applied across town where the IMF issues its own brand of international money known as special drawing rights. But there the specie in danger is Europe's uniquely special right to tap one of its own and put that person into the top job at the Fund. The coin of the realm is clout.

All IMF managing directors have, by tradition, been European, just as World Bank presidents have always been American. Countries in Europe control about 37% of the voting power, with a US share of about 17%. Together, Europe and the US have picked the leaders of the Fund and the Bank since Bretton Woods.

But all is not well with this hidebound arrangement in the wake of the bare-knuckled political brawl leading up to the appointment of Germany's Horst Köhler as the new IMF managing director.

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