Mixed reaction to Lagarde’s appointment


Christine Lagarde must move fast on the Greek debt crisis and to open the IMF up to emerging countries, press comment on her appointment to head the fund said on Wednesday.
Newspapers warned that Lagarde must satisfy aspirations by emerging countries to obtain an increased role within the International Monetary Fund and assuage concerns that she might favour Europe. “The name is correct, the method is not,” Italian business newspaper Il Sole-24 Ore said on its front page, commenting that Europe did not deserve the post owing to its “incapacity” in handling the Greek crisis. In China, Caixin media group said that Lagarde was well qualified and deserved to win.
But emerging countries should ask themselves why they “were unable to reach a consensus and speak in one voice to bargain” rather than why “they were unable to break the Europeans’ traditional grip over the position of IMF managing director.”
The financial channel of big Chinese platform sina.com, said: “Lagarde’s top task after assuming the position will be to resolve the Greek debt crisis with the combined resources of the IMF and the European Union.” In Japan, the Nikkei newspaper said that “emerging nations were seen promising to give her support on conditions that they significantly gain influence” in IMF affairs. Reports also widely lauded the IMF for putting a woman in the top job for the first time.
Beyond being a victory for women, her victory “is a victory of Europe over the emerging world,” said Diario Economico, a Portuguese business newspaper.
A victory that will now require diplomatic skills also widely underlined in press reports. “She has to save Greece and the eurozone, but at the same time she must not give the impression that she’s ignoring emerging countries,” said El Mundo, Spain’s conservative daily.
El-Pais, Spain’s left-of-centre newspaper, called Lagarde “crafty, elegant and with a big personality, this French politician is incredibly well respected — and known — outside her country.” The Wall Street Journal said that the appointment “failed to meet the hopes of many national leaders who thought it could be the first realistic chance for a non-European to take the post.”
In Paris, conservative daily Le Figaro — quoting French President Nicolas Sarkozy — celebrated “a victory for France” on its front page, adding emerging countries may be awarded the crucial number two post, which traditionally goes to an American. “Can tradition be put into question, like it was tacitly promised during (Lagarde’s) campaign,” the paper asked about replacing Jeff Lipsky, who has announced his retirement from the number two job.
Europeans could learn from Lagarde’s smoothe selection process, France’s left-leaning daily Liberation said. “Who would have bet one euro that France could push one of their own to the post” after the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, the paper said.
“When Europe speaks from one voice, it gives itself all the chances” to have its interests met, Liberation wrote. In Britain, the Guardian sarcastically chided the IMF for giving the managing director post to a French politician.
“Don’t expect the IMF to be sceptical about France’s half-baked scheme for Greece now that Lagarde has been anointed,” the commentary said, referring to a plan put forward by French for banks to accept to roll-over more than half of the Greek debt they hold.
Pimco fund manager, Mohamed A. El-Erian, said in the Financial Times that “Lagarde will need to hit the ground running if her tenure as IMF managing director is to be an inspiring story of institutional transformation.” Pimco, a London-based investment fund, has huge holdings in sovereign bonds.
French afternoon daily, Le Monde, criticised President Sarkozy, and trumpeting from the Elysee palace that the nomination amounted to a victory for France. “Paris could have done without this hardly diplomatic reaction concerning a multilateral institution where Europe’s domination is more and more contested,” Le Monde said.