Turkish Finance Minister Simsek Says He Could Lead IMF

Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said there is no reason he couldn’t serve as head of the International Monetary Fund and that selecting a Turk for the position would be a “natural” choice.

“I don’t have even the tiniest shortage in terms of experience or knowledge,” Simsek, 44, said in an interview with Kanal 24 television today. “If a Turk were to be head of the IMF, it would be utterly natural.”

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.

Eswar Prasad, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, named another Turk, Kemal Dervis, as a leading potential successor 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.

Opposition Party

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.

The final decision about whether the Turkish government will propose a candidate will be made by Erdogan, Bagis told the state-run Anatolia news agency.

“Mehmet has shown over four years with his performance in Turkey that he has the capability to solve global economic problems,” the agency quoted him as saying. “Having a Turkish citizen in such a position would make us extremely happy.”

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