AS finance ministers and central bank governors gather next week for the IMF-World Bank annual meetings in the US capital, the first shots of a new putsch against multilateralism have been fired. The target: Kristalina Georgieva, fund managing director since 2019.
She has tried to enhance multilateral coherence by aligning the fund with the United Nations, as envisaged by then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Like predecessor Christine Lagarde, the former bank environmental economist is committed to the sustainable development goals and addressing global warming.
Despite Trump administration opposition, she supported issuing IMF special drawing rights (SDRs) to help members cope with the pandemic.
She thus enhanced countries’ scarce foreign exchange resources and seeks to accelerate mass vaccination to enable recovery.
Following the change at the White House in January, new US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen agreed to issuing US$650 billion of SDRs.
From Bulgaria, Georgieva is appreciated by many governments – especially those with little or no clout at the fund – for expediting efforts to cope with the pandemic.
Gaming the business
The World Bank Group’s annual Doing Business Report (DBR) has long ranked countries by how ‘investment-friendly’ they seem, especially to foreign investors.
Unsurprisingly, the DB index appreciates low corporate income tax rates and weak labour protection.
The DBR has long been considered problematic, attracting many criticisms, even from within the group.
But as its most widely read and influential annual publication, it was jealously defended by management for decades with promises of reform over many years.
Middle income country governments the world over now pay consultants well to help game their DB scores and ranking. They hope to thus attract more investments, especially from abroad.
With financialisation, real economic criteria declined in significance as financial market indicators became more important.
Prosecution by innuendo
The WilmerHale law firm report about the DBR to the bank executive board is cited by London’s right-wing Economist to demand Georgieva’s head.
It covers improprieties involving the 2018 and 2020 DB indices for Azerbaijan, China and Saudi Arabia.
Her heinous crime: as the senior bank executive responsible, Georgieva failed to lower China’s already low ranking. Instead, they insist she must resign for maintaining its 2017 rank of 78 in 2018!
Her nefarious act was supposedly to get China’s support for the capital increase the bank was seeking.
But China had long advocated such a capital increase, opposed by successive US administrations before Trump.
In fact, while still at the US Treasury in 2018, current bank president David Malpass had reversed US policy, recommending a capital increase.