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July 05, 2011

Lagarde Says Global Economy on Rebound, Pledges More Diversity at IMF

by Mil Arcega

Christine Lagarde gave her first news conference Wednesday, one day after starting her new job as managing director of the International Monetary Fund.  The former French finance minister has a busy agenda as she takes the reins of an institution struggling to contain the European debt crisis and the sudden departure of its former chief, Dominique Strauss- Kahn.


Two years after the global downturn, Christine Lagarde says the world's economy is on the mend.  But in her first news conference since becoming the new head of the IMF, Lagarde acknowledged the recovery has been uneven - with emerging markets growing faster than advanced economies.

"We have these tectonic plates that are moving at the moment and that needs to be reflected in the composition, governance and employment of the fund and I will continue that," she said.

The former finance minister faces a complex agenda as she takes over the global lending institution - from pressuring fellow Europeans to make the tough decisions needed to bolster the euro - to convincing the fund's 187 member countries that the IMF will be a more diverse and inclusive institution.

"It's not just about gender, color, religion, sexual preferences, but it's also about academic background.  And I think that we need to draw on the resources and the intellect developed in many corners of the world, because that will make us better and richer," she said.

On whether the resignation of former IMF chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexual assault had damaged the fund's credibility, Lagarde insisted the allegations had no bearing on the IMF's accomplishments.

And she pledged to push forward with reforms started by her predecessor. "It (the IMF) has reasons to be proud of its achievements under the previous managing director's helm, and I'm the first one to acknowledge the quality of the reforms that have taken place.  And as to the rest, we shall leave it to the legal course that it should take and I'm not going to comment further on that," she said.

Lagarde, who becomes the first woman to lead the fund, also revealed a softer side.  Recalling her early days as a student in Washington, she offered this advice to students. "For all the young girls that are in school at the moment, I'd like to say that they should each consider that everything's possible," she said.

While short on specifics on how the IMF plans to deal with the most pressing global issues, Lagarde confirmed the fund's board is set to meet Friday to consider the disbursement of funds for debt-riddled Greece.