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Singapore Finance Head Gets Thai, Philippine Backing for IMF Job

Singapore Finance Head Gets Thai, Philippine Backing for IMF
Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's finance minister, speaks at a conference in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, April 14, 2011. Photographer: Jay Mallin/Bloomberg

Southeast Asian nations backed Singapore Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam as a possible choice to succeed Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund.

Shanmugaratnam “is certainly well qualified” and the IMF should consider all candidates for the role of managing director, including those from Asia or Latin America, Philippine Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. Thai Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said yesterday Asia has good candidates, including Shanmugaratnam.

“In the late 90s, Asia went through a debt contagion itself and I think that experience leading through that crisis can come in handy in helping our European friends in their own debt crisis,” Purisima said today.

Strauss-Kahn’s resignation this week after being charged with attempting to rape a New York hotel maid kicked off a contest for his successor. Europe’s officials have moved to retain the job as emerging markets including Asia, South America, and Russia seek greater representation at the IMF, which has always been headed by a European since it started in 1946.

The IMF made Shanmugaratnam the chair of its steering committee for up to three years in March, and the minister is also a member of the Group of Thirty, an international economic and monetary affairs advisory group.

Thailand’s Korn said the Singapore finance chief was “one of the most capable, technically sound, well rounded and experienced finance ministers in the world.”

Deputy Premier

Shanmugaratnam, 54, was named this week as deputy prime minister and manpower minister while retaining the finance portfolio during a cabinet reshuffle by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

He has headed the island’s finance ministry since December 2007, and was managing director of the central bank in 2001. The Southeast Asian nation’s gross domestic product grew a record 14.5 percent last year after shrinking in 2009 amid the global recession.

Shanmugaratnam said the announcement of Singapore’s new cabinet has “put paid” to any rumors that he will move to the IMF, the Straits Times newspaper reported on May 19. The finance ministry declined to comment on the IMF role when contacted by Bloomberg News today.

European officials have moved to retain the privilege of leading the IMF, set up after World War II to promote global financial stability, supporting French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. The U.S. has said it wants “an open process that leads to a prompt succession.”

Under the IMF’s rules, its executive board selects the managing director and any member can make a nomination. Prior to appointing Strauss-Kahn in 2007, the board said candidates must have a “distinguished record in economic policy-making at senior levels” and “demonstrated the managerial and diplomatic skills needed to lead a global institution.”

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