The boss of the IMF, an image of integrity tarnished by the scandal

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva is suspected of irregularities.  Photo taken in Washington on October 15, 2019 (AFP / Olivier Douliery)

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva is suspected of irregularities. Photo taken in Washington on October 15, 2019 (AFP / Olivier Douliery)

Bulgarian Kristalina Georgieva, whose continued IMF Managing Director was uncertain Monday due to suspected irregularities, was until then a respected economist for her solid background in international finance.

Ms. Georgieva, 68, took over as head of the International Monetary Fund on October 1, 2019 after the departure of Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde, appointed to the European Central Bank.

Two years later, she is accused of manipulating data from a “Doing Business” report in favor of China when she was number 2 in the World Bank. Facts that she denies outright.

Recognizable by her boyish cut, she was the only candidate for the head of the IMF that is traditionally in the hands of a European while the World Bank is headed by an American, according to a sharing inherited from the creation of the two institutions of Bretton Woods.

However, the IMF had to change its statutes to be able to ratify her appointment since Ms. Georgieva exceeded the age limit, then set at 65 years.

She had previously spent most of her career at the World Bank until becoming its Managing Director in 2017.

The native of Sofia, where she taught economics for 26 years, had forged an expertise in the field of the environment by multiplying the functions in the fields of sustainable development and agricultural issues in particular.

At the IMF, it has displayed its main priorities: the fight against inequalities, the integration of women in the economy and especially the fight against climate change.

– Women and climate –

She had taken the reins of this institution in a global economy weakened by trade tensions between the United States and China.

But she was far from imagining that a few months later, the planet, sick with Covid-19, would plunge into a historic recession.

The one who is described by her supporters as one of the “most upright” people also did not imagine being under the fire of serious accusations.

Kristalina Georgieva is “a daring leader who has been able to face the economic fallout of the pandemic and who has positioned the Fund as a global pioneer (in the fight against) climate change”, opined at the end of September Joseph Stiglitz, American economist and Nobel prize for economics as a support.

Other economists add that she has successfully pleaded with countries for an increase in IMF reserves to help the most vulnerable countries.

Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, said in the Financial Times that Georgieva risked being the victim of “anti-Beijing hysteria”, an allusion to the fact that Washington accuses China’s interference in international institutions.

In addition to her functions in the Washington institutions, Kristalina Georgieva held the post of European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid between 2010 and 2014, when she had to replace Bulgaria’s initial candidate at short notice.

Then, between 2015 and 2016, she was Vice-President of the Juncker Commission in charge of the budget and human resources.

She has acquired a reputation as an energetic and tenacious senior civil servant, “knowing how to show a tough character if she defends a dossier which is close to her heart”, testified a diplomat during his first visit to the European institutions.

In 2016, this always smiling and outgoing diplomat, who demonstrates the ability to convince and form consensus, had already been an unexpected finalist in the election for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations, finally awarded to the Portuguese Antonio Guterres.

World Bank number two Kristalina Georgieva in Vienna on December 18, 2018 (AFP / JOE KLAMAR)

World Bank number two Kristalina Georgieva in Vienna on December 18, 2018 (AFP / JOE KLAMAR)

As a child, she was described as a little girl “who did not stick her head out of her books”.

Her father, Ivan, was a road technician in communist Bulgaria where Kristalina Georgieva was born on August 13, 1953, the year Stalin died.

She is fluent in Russian and developed good relations in Moscow during her years as Director for Russia of the World Bank, between 2004 and 2007.

Politically, this mother of a child has never held elected office in her country but does not miss an opportunity to cite her homeland as an example.

Dt / tu / cjc

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