Chief economist of Raiffeisenbank, Prague
For a former minister of finance, Pavel Mertlik is down to earth and approachable. When I phone him out of the blue to ask for an interview about his new job, his reaction is something like "sure, do you want to do it now?" Feeling insufficiently prepared to go ahead there and then, I suggest the next morning.
Mertlik's blend of openness and tough pragmatism endeared him to many during his two years as finance minister of the Czech Republic, which ended in April. Last September, at the time of the IMF-World Bank meetings, when he was profiled in the Financial Times, this former academic was being spoken of as the "best ever" Czech finance minister, responsible, in the words of Zdenek Bakala, head of Patria Finance, for improving the ministry "beyond recognition". The governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdenek Tuma, still talks of Mertlik as "the best finance minister we have had since 1990.