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What I learned from World Bank saga: IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva

The IMF Board cleared Georgieva on Monday and expressed full confidence in her leadership

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva on Wednesday reflected on the recent World Bank saga that seemed to threaten her credibility and that of the institution she leads, asserting that the most important lesson she learned was to be “always mindful that there may be people that are not feeling entirely included.”

“I always look at every opportunity to draw lessons for myself and for the institutions I lead. In this particular case, the most important lesson is that, in large organizations, we have to be always mindful that there may be people that are not feeling entirely included, and I am not seeing the doors through which they can express concerns, whatever their concerns are,” the Bulgarian economist said in Washington D.C. during a press conference at the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings, as she reflected on the now debunked accusations that she manipulated data while she formerly headed the World Bank. “I think that, at the Fund, we have a strong internal justice system. There are many avenues for people to introduce their concerns. I can tell you, when I sit in meetings, there is a lot of debate and disagreements that are ultimately sorted out through this debate. But I do want to be the one that says, OK, let’s continuously look at what we have and how we can make it better. And it is a process that I embrace, actually, wholeheartedly before this experience, and I embrace it even more as a result of that.”

Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 Washington, DC, United States 
Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 Washington, DC, United States

Georgieva insisted that the credibility of the IMF remains intact and debunked accusations while she headed the World Bank have not changed that.

“I first want to remind everybody that the problem was with one specific, rather controversial report at the World Bank, not with the research and data at the IMF. And I want to stress that our Board was very explicit in recognizing the excellence of IMF staff and the integrity of IMF research. We have internal systems in place that provide multiple checks of every product, and we also have an ongoing review process that makes sure that what we do is to the best of service requirements of the membership,” she said.

On Monday, the IMF executive board reaffirmed its “full confidence” in Georgieva’s leadership, following a painstaking investigation that lasted several weeks.

A World Bank investigation had concluded that the IMF Chief directed staff to boost China’s ranking in a world economies report released in 2018 when she was the head of the World Bank, a wild accusation she vehemently denied.

“The Executive Board considered that the information presented in the course of its review did not conclusively demonstrate that the Managing Director played an improper role regarding the Doing Business 2018 Report when she was CEO of the World Bank,” the IMF board said in a statement. “Having looked at all the evidence presented, the Executive Board reaffirms its full confidence in the Managing Director’s leadership and ability to continue to effectively carry out her duties. The Board trusts in the Managing Director’s commitment to maintaining the highest standards of governance and integrity in the IMF.”

Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 
Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021

It added, “The Executive Board also reiterates its own commitment to supporting the Managing Director in maintaining the highest standards of governance and integrity in the data, research, and operations of the IMF and has confidence in the impartiality and analytical excellence of IMF staff and in the IMF’s robust and effective channels for complaint, dissent, and accountability. At the same time, the Executive Board plans to meet to consider possible additional steps to ensure the strength of institutional safeguards in these areas.

The Executive Board looks forward to continuing to work with the Managing Director, the rest of the Management team, and the IMF’s dedicated staff to address the serious challenges facing the global economy and the IMF’s member countries.”

Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 
Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva conducts her press conference during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021

In a statement after she was cleared, Georgieva said she was “pleased that after a comprehensive, impartial review of the facts, the IMF Board agrees that the allegations were unfounded. I want to thank the Board for expressing its full confidence in my leadership. Trust and integrity are the cornerstones of the multinational organizations that I have faithfully served for more than four decades.”

“This has obviously been a difficult episode for me personally. However, I want to express my unyielding support for the independence and integrity of institutions such as the World Bank and IMF; and my respect for all those committed to protecting the values on which these organizations are founded,” she said. “As the IMF meets this week, I am humbled to lead such a talented team that is working tirelessly to address the world’s greatest challenges, from combatting COVID-19 to fighting climate change and tackling economic inequities.” 

Crews flip the room after the Restricted Early Warning Exercise during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 Washington, DC, United States 
Crews flip the room after the Restricted Early Warning Exercise during the 2021 Annual Meetings at the International Monetary Fund. IMF Photo/Cory Hancock 13 October 2021 Washington, DC, United States

Georgieva recalled the incident at her press conference on Thursday, thanking the board for “a comprehensive and impartial review” of all the accusations against her.

“Looking back on the past couple of weeks, I want to start by thanking the IMF Executive Board for a comprehensive and impartial review of all the evidence surrounding the problematic World Bank report and for giving me an opportunity to answer all their questions. On this basis, the Board concluded it has full confidence in my ability to lead the Fund, and it feels great to be able to focus exclusively on the work in hand. So let me go straight to it,” she said.

Chief White House Correspondent for

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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