Turkish Finance Minister Simsek Says He Could Lead IMF

(Corrects timing of Dervis joining the CHP in sixth paragraph.)

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said nothing would keep him from serving as head of the International Monetary Fund and that selecting a Turk for the position would be a “natural” choice.

“We have several friends who could be IMF president,” Simsek said in an interview with Kanal 24 television today. “As far as myself, I don’t have even the tiniest shortage in terms of experience or knowledge. We’d do this very well.”

Local speculation that Simsek may be Turkey’s preferred candidate for the job was first raised by Turkish minister and European Union chief negotiator Egemen Bagis, whose comments on Twitter that Simsek would do the job well were re-tweeted by Simsek and then picked up by the national media.

“If a Turk were to be head of the IMF, it would be utterly natural,” Simsek, 44, told Kanal 24. “Our hope is that in the coming period, IMF heads will come from more developing countries like Turkey, like Russia.”

Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, named another Turk, Kemal Dervis, as one of three leading potential successors if the current IMF chief, Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is forced to step down. Strauss-Kahn was arrested on May 14 in New York on charges of sexually assaulting and trying to rape a hotel housekeeper. He will plead not guilty to the charges, his lawyer Benjamin Brafman said.

Dervis, an economist who formerly worked at the World Bank and led the United Nations Development Program, was minister of state for economic affairs in 2001-2002 without a party affiliation. After resigning from the post, he joined the Republican People’s Party, running against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party in elections that same year.

Before becoming finance minister, Simsek worked in London as chief economist and strategist for emerging Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Merrill Lynch. He also served as a senior economist at the U.S. embassy in Ankara in the mid-1990s.

To contact the reporter on this story: Benjamin Harvey in Ankara at bharvey11@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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