IFI governance


Staff changes in key positions at the IMF reflect adherence to out-dated gentleman’s agreement

6 April 2022

The first quarter of 2022 came with several high-level staff changes at the IMF. Chief Economist Gita Gopinath, a Harvard University professor and the first woman to hold the position, moved into the role of First Deputy Managing Director, replacing Geoffrey Okamoto on January 21. Her elevation to Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva’s “second in command” came after she spent three years as the Fund’s economic counsellor and director of the IMF’s Research Department, where she had pursued initiatives to address the Covid-19 pandemic through a multilateral task force and set up a climate change team. Regardless of her accomplishments, it was her US citizenship that facilitated India-born Gopinath’s promotion, as the undemocratic US-European “gentleman’s agreement,” which holds that the Fund’s Managing Director is a European and the First Deputy Managing Director role is filled by an American, continues to determine key leadership positions in the World Bank and IMF (see Inside the Institutions, What is the gentleman’s agreement?). Gopinath was subsequently replaced as IMF Chief Economist by French economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas from University of California at Berkeley, whose research has explored the international monetary system and the currency hegemony of the US dollar, the determinants of capital flows and the 2008 global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, Magdalena Andersson stepped down as chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), the direction-setting body of finance ministers and central bank directors for the IMF, at the end of 2021 (see Dispatch Annuals 2021). Previously minister of finance of Sweden and, like Gopinath, the first woman to hold her leadership position at the Fund, she relinquished her IMFC duties to assume her  role as her country’s newly elected prime minister. Andersson is succeeded by fellow European Nadia Calviño, who has been Spain’s first vice president and minister of economic affairs and digital transformation since 2018.