Now that the inevitable has occurred -- IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has resigned -- the push for a new leader begins in earnest. Since the IMF was established, the head has traditionally been reserved for a European, given the ownership structure of the bank and the immediate needs of post-war reconstruction, while the head of the World Bank has gone to an American and the Secretary General of the United Nations has rotated among regions. The clamor from non-European nations is now for the new IMF managing director to be drawn from an emerging market nation.
That's fine, so long as the person is selected for their competence, proven abilities, and commitment to the international system rather than for their particular country of origin.
Just as candidates should not necessarily at this point be considered just because they are from Europe, neither should they be promoted just because it's "time" for an emerging market representative to be selected. Equally importantly, representatives from command economies should, by definition, not be considered. The issues at stake are too important, and global economic recovery too fragile, to risk on political experimentation.
Having said that, there are a number of outstanding candidates that could be considered, from countries from the western hemisphere that are not Europe or the United States, but whose countries are clearly on the rise and are fully capable, assuming the decision is made to consider nominations from outside Europe. Several candidates come immediately to mind. Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, for example, have done a superb job navigating through economic crisis and growing their economies. Names like Henrique Mierelles, who is now in charge of Brazil's Olympics effort, Jim Flaherty, Canada's newly re-elected Finance Minister, Andres Velasco who navigated Chile through difficult economic circumstances, and Mexico's Angel Gurria who now heads the OECD should be in the mix, as well as others from these and other nations. Though not a Latin American, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam would also have to be considered.
The point is that, if the decision is made to open the doors to non-Europeans for consideration, the western hemisphere boasts a level of talent that is genuinely world-class. There is an opportunity here that should not be missed.