• Irish government official Robert Watt said to lead race
  • Successful candidate will replace Honohan, who is retiring

The Irish government is poised to name its next central bank governor as soon as Tuesday with Robert Watt, head official in the public expenditure ministry, leading the race after an international search, according to people familiar with the matter.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan may make a decision as early as Monday in Dublin to bring to cabinet the following day, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the process is ongoing.

Bookmaker Paddy Power Plc suspended betting on Watt’s appointment after Bloomberg News reported last week he was one of two candidates shortlisted for the job. Philip Lane, an economics professor at Trinity College Dublin, also made a list drawn up by a selection panel, people familiar with the matter said Oct. 6.

Finance ministry officials, Watt and Lane declined to comment.

The next governor would succeed Patrick Honohan, who was plucked from academia in 2009 to restore the institution’s credibility amid a real-estate and banking collapse. The successful candidate will also sit on the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, which sets monetary policy for the currency bloc.

An economist, Watt was a central figure as the state reined in public spending to narrow the budget deficit during the financial crisis. He was appointed as secretary general of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in May 2011, just after the ministry was set up by Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s administration.

Watt previously worked in the finance ministry, in roles including responsibility for overall spending policy. A holder of a masters in economics, he has also worked with research firms Indecon Economic Consultants in Dublin and London Economics.

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