David Blackburn

Meeting Christine Lagarde

Meeting Christine Lagarde
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The FT has been speaking to Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister tipped to become managing director of the IMF. A few salient points emerge from it. First, she has more than a dash of hard-nosed Gallic defiance. Responding to the charge of a lack of a qualification in economics, she reiterated the comments she made to the Today programme earlier in the years:

“From what I know of the job, I think I can do it. One of the qualities that people recognise in me is my ability to reach out, to try to build a consensus, to bring people to the common interest while still being a very firm and no nonsense person.”

Her empathy is well documented, as is her sympathy for all things American. The FT reveals that she owes her politics to an exchange scheme in America; she also worked for Baker&McKenzie, rising to be their Global Chairman in Chicago. She is clear that having a European (by which she means her) as head of the IMF is “neither a handicap nor an asset”. Lagarde’s charm, it seems, is to have mixed French parochialism with cosmopolitan internationalism.

Lagarde has friends in high places. The FT reminds us that she is very well regarded in Europe and the G8; colleagues have only praise for her ability to forge consensus in international negotiations. The FT speculates that even the Russians and Chinese (two vital developing economies) are thought to favour Lagarde.

The woman once Christened Madame La Gaffe for her political naivety now seems certain to replace Dominique Strauss-Khan. But this week’s Economist echoes the dissent of many when pointing out that Lagarde may not be suitably competent to run the IMF as this important time. The article (not apparently available online) argues that she was an architect of the eurozone’s plainly inadequate response to its debt crisis; the consequences of which have been disastrous, not to mention expensive and politically fractious. If Gordon Brown is unsuitable, the Economist perhaps implies, then so too is Christine Lagarde.