European Union leaders agreed on Tuesday to name France’s Christine Lagarde as the new head of the European Central Bank and sealed a deal on filling the EU’s other top four jobs after marathon talks that have exposed deep divisions in the bloc.
A shrewd negotiator who has run the IMF but has little monetary policy experience, Christine Lagarde will face the challenge as the European Central Bank’s new chief of having to revive the euro zone economy with a nearly depleted policy arsenal. Once France’s first woman finance minister, and head of the International Monetary Fund since 2011, she is a strong advocate of female empowerment who has long argued that more women in banking and regulation would aid financial sector stability. Lagarde aims to start to break down a gender barrier at the ECB, which remains heavily male-dominated despite having set equality as a priority for years. Lagarde, 63, has blamed the global financial crisis a decade ago in part on testosterone-fuelled greed, once saying: “If it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, the world might well look a lot different today.” Consistently ranked among the top 10 most powerful women by Forbes magazine, she has rebuilt the IMF’s credibility following Greece’s 2010 bailout, which not only bent the Fund’s own rules but needed to be followed up with more aid over years.
A former synchronized swimmer, Lagarde presided over the IMF’s biggest bailout, a $57 billion deal for Argentina last year that was widely credited with arresting emerging market turbulence that risked derailing global growth. Lagarde’s immediate challenge at the ECB will be to overcome her shortcomings in monetary policymaking, especially as it seeks to rearm for a potential new slump after years of using unconventional policy tools to stimulate inflation and growth. A former antitrust lawyer with Baker McKenzie, the divorced mother of two became French finance minister in 2007, then took over at the IMF when a sex scandal forced her predecessor Dominique Strauss-Kahn to quit. A non-economist leading a major central bank is unusual, although U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell is also a trained lawyer and spent much of his career in private equity. (http://www.tvn24.pl)