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Embattled IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva receives more backing as board meets to keep or fire her

The decision by the board had not been made public at the time of publishing this article as members were said to still be meeting in Washington

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Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Former World Bank senior staff and prominent leaders around the world are speaking out in support of the embattled managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva.

The latest show of support comes even as the executive board of the IMF meets to decide whether the Bulgarian economist should keep her job or be asked to go, after a World Bank report concluded that she helped boost China’s ranking in 2018, a wild accusation that has called into question the credibility of the global lending institution located minutes away from the White House. She has denied any wrong doing.

The decision by the board had not been made public at the time of publishing this article as members were said to still be meeting in Washington D.C. on the same day the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings were starting.

You can find below what Georgieva’s backers are saying:

“Germany, France, Italy and the UK are right to support @KGeorgieva who is an outstanding international public servant and who has served with distinction as a Commissioner and Vice President of the @EU_Commission, then Managing Director of the @WorldBank and now head of @IMFNews,” said Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 

“The current assault on Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, is a cautionary tale. She is accused of interfering with the rankings of the World Bank’s Doing Business annual report in 2018, when she was that institution’s CEO, to help improve China’s performance. This is puzzling given that the man responsible for that report, Professor Shantayanan Devarajan, says that she did no such thing. In fact, in 2018, China’s progress in the annual ranking actually stalled. Following Kristalina Georgieva’s departure from the Bank, China resumed its move up the rankings, climbing 15 places between 2019 and 2020,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, Chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

“We have worked with Ms. Georgieva personally, including on very sensitive issues involving staff, shareholder concerns, operational matters and upholding the Bank’s standards in corporate governance but also in its lending. She is the person of the utmost integrity and commitment to development. The allegations of the report are just absurd and do not reflect who she is,” said former World Bank senior leaders.

“The #IMF has a long way to go to build trust with the Global South. Kristalina Georgieva’s leadership has started that process with with debt relief and support for SDR allocations during the pandemic. Governments – this is not the time to play game,” said Ruwan Subasinghe, Legal Director of the International Transport Workers’ Federation.

“Add debt relief, SDRs and fund to support struggling nations and #IMF is rebuilding trust. If Govts fail to support @Kgeorgieva & a more inclusive agenda then the institution will continue to fail people & planet,” said Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation.

“The danger of dismissing Ms. Georgieva under such pressure is that an institution that is supposed to be multilateral will be seen as a puppet of the United States, and will weaken it — which would be devastating for global trust, financial stability and multilateralism, and could set a dangerous path ahead for the global economy. We think Ms. Georgieva should be rewarded for her leadership — and not brought down by a gaslighting exercise, a scandal in search of a scandal. To that end, we call for the addition of Devarajan’s full testimony to the report,” said Paul Polman, Sustainable Development Goals Advocate at the United Nations, and Pascal Lamy, Former European Commissioner for Trade, in a letter to the IMF Executive Board.

Support from Women Leaders

“Campaign against @KGeorgieva has all the attributes of a witchhunt. As @JosephEStiglitz says: #COVID19 “#pandemic & its economic fallout have left many countries facing debt crises. Now more than ever, the world needs Georgieva’s steady hand at the IMF,” said Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former UNDP Administrator.

“I spent much of my 20s and early 30s campaigning against @IMFNews and @WorldBank for their nefarious impact on people, planet. @KGeorgieva is transforming role, voice of her institution as a champion of debt relief, SDRs, #ClimateAction, #VaccineEquity We need this leader,” saidKate Hampton, CEO of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

“I wonder how much of this has a “gender bias” component.  Sad to see how, so often, women in senior positions are scrutinised thru a much tighter filter than their male colleagues. @Kgeorgieva has been a compass at #IMF during this #COVID crisis,” said Susana Malcorra, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship for the Republic of Argentina.

“We need leaders like @KGeorgieva who understand the need for ambitious #ClimateAction, the urgency for a sustainable recovery, and the moral obligation for us as a global community to ensure no one is left behind. #EndEnergyPoverty #HLDE2021,” said Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All & Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All.

“To be effective and inclusive, the multilateral system needs female leaders like @KGeorgieva. Her leadership at the #IMF is providing a clear focus on the existential threat of climate change to global peace and prosperity,” said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders.

“The world is in dire need of visionary, courageous leaders of the highest integrity. Leaders committed to tackling our greatest risks: climate change, pandemics, poverty. @kgeorgieva –IMF’s Managing Director—is such a leader. We need more strong women like her! #womenleaders,” saidGunhild Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair of EAT.

“The Africa Europe Women Leaders Network supports @KGeorgieva & greets her dynamic inspiring leadership at #IMF and her personal commitment to achieve an equal future. Her key role in unlocking additional #SDRs is crucial to support fragilised [sic] economies in our challenging times,” said Gunhild Stordalen, Founder & Executive Chair of EAT.

“The world needs more #womenleaders who lead with #values and put people at the heart of their #leadership This is what @KGeorgieva is doing in facilitating a #greentransition and #VaccineEquity,” said Halla Tomasdottir, CEO of the B Team.

“Mainstreaming climate change in macroeconomic policies, winning new SDR allocation to benefit less developed countries and facilitate green transition, fighting for vaccine solidarity, this is women leadership. @KGeorgieva leadership. #womenleaders,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation.

“In my view the campaign of SDR emissions led by .@KGeorgieva to help less developed countries to alleviate the burden of debt and transition to more sustainable development is a model of global leadership. Not only talk about economic divide but act on it. #Womenleaders,” said Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation.

Support from African Nations

“During this COVID-19 crisis, the IMF has demonstrated stellar leadership under Ms. Georgieva, and she has our full confidence. She has not spared any effort to act on behalf of emerging economies. We are not out of the crisis yet and continue to count on the IMFs leadership,” said Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, in a letter to the IMF Executive Board.

“We are writing to express our strong support to Mme. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF. Doing Business was always the subject of complaints by countries for decades. The 2018 report was no different. As Africa we recognize the importance of benchmarking to help improve outcomes. We also acknowledge that this needs to be done in a robust manner. The job of Managing Director was to manage country expectations and protect the integrity of the report – in line with [Ms. Georgieva’s] reputation and commitment to multilateralism,” said Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, in a letter to the IMF Executive Board.

“We are writing to express our strong support to Madame. Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF. The Doing Business ranking has been the subject of complaints from countries for decades. The same was true for the 2018 report. We Africans recognize the importance of benchmarking to help improve outcomes. We also recognize that this must be done in a robust manner,” said Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in a letter to the IMF Executive Board.

“Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has demonstrated steady leadership during this time of crisis. At a time when multilateralism gave way to vaccine and economic nationalism, the IMF under her leadership, was able to provide global solutions for a global common. Many of us have known, interacted, and collaborated with Ms. Georgieva for many years. In our frequent meetings, we found her to be a true partner. In our dealings, she has demonstrated integrity, energy and progressive advice. As we mark her second anniversary as IMF MD, we can confidently say she has brought a human touch to development and to the organization she leads,” said Ministers of Finance and Economy from 16 African nations in an op-ed in All Africa.

Support from Economists

“The rush to judgment against Kristalina Georgieva, a distinguished international leader, is misguided. The changes to China’s score were either correcting coding errors or judgment calls on questions where judgment was required.  I was comfortable that China’s score was comparable to previous years’ (and future years’) scores.  At no point did I feel I was being pressured. The notion that Ms. Georgieva put her thumb on the scale to benefit one nation is beyond credulity. It was her job to ensure the final report was accurate and credible – and that’s what she did,” said Shanta Devarajan, Professor of the Practice of Development, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and former Senior Director for Development Economics (DEC) at the World Bank Group.

“Your leader as well as your earlier article on the World Bank’s Doing Business report and China convey a false impression of Kristalina Georgieva’s role (“Why Georgieva should go”, September 25th; “How World Bank leaders put pressure on staff to alter a global index”, digital editions, September 17th). I was the senior director overseeing the report in 2017. Her direction to me was clear: verify the numbers without compromising the integrity of Doing Business. I was comfortable that the score for China was comparable to previous years’ scores. Contrary to your headline, at no point did I feel any pressure from her. The Economist got it wrong,” said Shanta Devarajan, Professor of the Practice of Development, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and former Senior Director for Development Economics (DEC) at the World Bank Group, in a letter to the editor in The Economist.

“The specific allegation against Georgieva is venial on its face: that she leaned against a World Bank data team to shift China’s ranking by a few positions in a World Bank index… After Georgieva left the bank for the fund, China soared in the ranking, showing that the 2018 ranking was not some outlier…If the US government, at the behest of congressional hotheads, brings down Georgieva, it would prove conclusively that the IMF is a US-directed institution with the mere trappings of multilateralism. China, Russia and others would increasingly go their own way… Let’s hope that we are nowhere near such an outcome. The case against Georgieva is insubstantial. The multilateralism of the IMF is vital for global financial stability. The IMF should not capitulate to anti-China congressional hysteria,” said prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs in an op-ed in The Financial Times.

“The coming years are of vital importance to the future stability of the world economy and environment. This is as decisive a period as we have seen since the Second World War. The world needs clear, distinguished, and steady leadership. Kristalina has shown that she is outstandingly qualified to give that leadership. Disruption now could be highly damaging. The world profoundly needs Kristalina’s leadership in the coming years,” said Lord Nicholas Stern, IG Patel Professor of Economics, London School of Economics, in a letter to the IMF Executive Board.

“Having read the WilmerHale report, having talked directly to key people involved, and knowing the whole process, the investigation appears to me to be a hatchet job. Throughout, Georgieva acted in an entirely professional way, doing exactly what I would have done (and occasionally had to do when I was chief economist): urge those working for me to be sure their numbers were right, or as accurate as possible, given the inherent limitations on data… political intrigue and bureaucratic rivalry are the last things the world needs at a time when the pandemic and its economic fallout have left many countries facing debt crises. Now more than ever, the world needs Georgieva’s steady hand at the IMF,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel economist and University Professor, Columbia University, in an op-ed in Project Syndicate.

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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