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The IMF Needs More Lagarde

DAVOS – Christine Lagarde has said she is open to serving another five-year term as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She should get it. The IMF has never had better leadership, and its board of directors should give her the chance to finish the work she has begun.

When Lagarde took the helm in July 2011, she inherited an institution in crisis. The global financial meltdown in 2008 and its economic aftershocks had discredited Western-led multilateral lenders and the free-market “Washington Consensus.” Lagarde’s leadership has helped to restore the Fund’s reputation.

Much attention is paid to her personal qualities – and rightly so. She is frank, forceful, warm, and engaging. In country after country, officials with whom she has met, often under delicate circumstances, describe her as both a teller of difficult truths and a sensitive listener. These are important qualities for the leader of an institution that must negotiate, rather than dictate, terms of agreement.

The Europeans did not like it much when Lagarde told them their banks needed to be restructured or that they needed to build a firewall to protect against financial contagion – but they did it. Likewise, she made tough calls on providing IMF support to countries – for example, Greece, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Ukraine – that are crucial to global stability.