Finance Minister: Stanley Fischer's Chances for IMF Chief Are Slim

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz says although Fischer is ideal candidate for position, political considerations and other obstacles make his likelihood of winning race to head IMF low.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has little chance of winning the race to head
the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz told Army Radio on Sunday.

Fischer, 67, would be a significant challenger to front-runner Christine Lagarde but the IMF would have to change its rules that no one be appointed to the post over the age of 65 nor hold the five-year post beyond the age of 70.

Stanley Fischer -  Tomer Appelbaum
Tomer Appelbaum

"The chances are not great, there are obstacles along the road ... first there is the age obstacle. (Secondly) the choice is very much political. Were it purely professional one would be hard pressed to find a better person than Fischer," Steinitz said.

Fischer was born in what is now Zambia but holds Israeli citizenship, which could pose a problem for Arab countries.

He is also a U.S. citizen, which could prove an obstacle as the United States traditionally claims the top job at the World Bank, while a European has always run the IMF.

Also, Fischer might not be so popular in Asia where he remains associated with some of the harsh IMF-backed, free-market policies to fight the region's financial crisis in the late 1990s.

A Reuters poll of economists around the world in May found 32 of 56 saw Lagarde as the favorite, although Fischer won the most votes as "best suited" for the job.

Steinitz, Israel's representative at the IMF, also said he would support and aid
Fischer's candidacy, whose resume includes a spell as chief economist at the World Bank.

Fischer, who just started his second year of a second five-year term as Governor of the Bank of Israel, is credited with helping Israel's economy weather the global financial crisis by starting to lower Israeli interest rates sharply in 2008. He has since raised rates 10 times to contain inflation.

Fischer said on Saturday he was running for the job vacated by Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned after his arrest on May 14 on charges he denies of attempting to rape a New York hotel maid.