June 13, 2011

Israel’s Fischer Seen as Unlikely IMF Chief Successor

Bank of Israel governor's age, citizenship seen as obstacles

Zambian-born Stanley Fischer has thrown his hat into the International Monetary Fund (IMF) leadership ring with those of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Mexico's central bank chief, Agustin Carstens.

The Israeli bank head declared his candidacy for the top spot at the IMF on Saturday, despite obstacles that include his age and his dual Israeli-American citizenship.

Reuters reported that Fischer, who has run the Bank of Israel since 2005, is older than the IMF's top age limit of 65; he is 67. The age rules also say that no one may serve past the age of 70; each term is for 5 years, and Fischer would pass that age with years to run on his term.

Fischer also holds dual citizenship, in Israel and in the U.S., which could pose other problems. His Israeli citizenship would not be popular with Arab nations, and his U.S. citizenship could disturb the precedent of an American running the World Bank while a European runs the IMF.

He is also seen as lacking popularity in Asia, thanks to his involvement with tough free-market policies used to fight Asia's 1990s financial crisis.

While Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly supports Fischer's candidacy, Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Fischer stood little chance of winning the position despite a resume that includes a stint at the World Bank. Steinitz, who represents Israel at the IMF, said in a Sunday radio interview, "The chances are not great; there are obstacles along the road ... first there is the age obstacle. [Secondly] the choice is very much political. Were it purely professional one would be hard pressed to find a better person than Fischer."

Netanyahu dismissed the age question, saying in a statement on Monday, "Stan Fischer would be one hell of an IMF chief. He doesn't have an age handicap. He's very fit, mentally and physically."

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