The Trial of Madame K

Source: Financial Times

          Gusty winds periodically blow over the multilateral system. The expiatory victim was once Boutros-Ghali, the Secretary-General of the UN and Kofi Annan himself was not spared at the end of his mandate. Today, the target is Kristalina Georgieva, head of the IMF, for incriminating facts dating back to 2017, when she was head of the World Bank. The suspicion began to spread, rising by capillarity, to the point of creating the risk of raising in the long term the issue of the credibility and the future of both institutions resulting from the Bretton Woods Agreements of 1944.

The trial is not that of Joseph K but of Madame K. The prosecutor is not clearly visible, the charges are if not vague, at least take back paths, the victim probably had the misfortune to be in the wrong place, at the heart of a debate that is ultimately as ideological as it is scientific (NB: generally speaking, everything related to deregulation is considered more positively; Conservative governments are treated better than progressive ones). Would Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva have contributed to changing China’s ranking in a World Bank report (see “Doing Business”) on the business environment, while Beijing had embarked on a series of reforms to open up to foreign investors and was preparing to participate in an increase of the Bank’s capital? 

In any case, the question is at the heart of the future of the IMF, where the issue of China’s place will arise because of the growing importance of a country whose economy has grown fifteen-fold in twenty years. 

Is the accusation, precisely because of this reality, not a form of all-out “anti-Chinese hysteria”? The honour of Mrs. K. is at stake here, but it is also about the honour of Europe and its interests. The possible resulting disruption of the multilateral system – which could result from questioning the credibility of its economic and financial institutions – would undermine all and sundry. France, which supported Mrs Georgieava in her candidacy to be head of the IMF – unlike some of its European partners – has incidentally in the past been the object of criticism concerning its legal system. In the present circumstances, in addition to Paris, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom seem to side with the Director-General after careful consideration. 

The indictment of Mrs Georgieva, whose entire career was exemplary, is pernicious. The worst thing would be not to clarify and settle the matter quickly and the best thing, from the point of view of our interests, would of course be for all suspicion to be removed.

(Reflections on this case will be included in the forthcoming article: “Defense and Illustration of Multilateralism”)

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