WORLD Profile: Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva takes office as IMF chief


Profile: Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva takes office as IMF chief


17:14, October 01, 2019

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1 (Xinhua) -- Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva, former chief executive officer of the World Bank, took office on Tuesday as the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a five-year term.

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(File photo: AP)

Georgieva, selected by the European Union (EU) to lead the IMF, has been the only nominee for the position. Succeeding France's Christine Lagarde, Georgieva is the first person from an emerging market economy to lead the IMF since its inception in 1944.

Georgieva, 66, has been CEO of the World Bank since January 2017. From February to April, she was the interim president for the global institution, following former chief Jim Yong Kim's abrupt resignation at the beginning of this year. At the World Bank, she was believed to have pushed for shareholders' consensus on a 13-billion-U.S. dollar capital increase and reform package last year, which cut lending to wealthier developing countries and shifted more resources to poorer countries.

Previously, Georgieva held numerous posts at the European Commission (EC) starting 2010, after her country joined the EU in 2007. She served as commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, and later became vice president for budget and human resources, when she oversaw the EU's 161 billion euros (175 billion dollars) budget, and was committed to addressing the euro zone debt crisis and the 2015 refugee crisis.

Before joining the EC, Georgieva had a 17-year tenure at the World Bank, starting in 1993 as an environmental economist, working her way up through the ranks, and becoming the vice president and corporate secretary in 2008. She held a number of other senior positions at the bank, including director for sustainable development, director for the Russian Federation, director for environment, and director for environment and social development for the East Asia and Pacific region.

Georgieva has built a reputation as a champion in women empowerment, humanitarian efforts, and the global fight against climate change. She serves on many international panels including as co-chair of the Global Commission on Adaptation, which seeks to accelerate adaptation action and increase political support for building climate resilience. She is also the co-chair of the United Nations Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing.

Born in Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, in 1953, Georgieva holds a PhD in economic science and a master's degree in political economy and sociology from the University of National and World Economy, where she worked as an associate professor between 1977 and 1993. During her academic career, she was visiting fellow at the London School of Economics in Britain and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States.

Noting that it's a "huge honor" for her to have been selected as the next managing director, Georgieva told reporters at the IMF headquarters last week that she steps into the role as a "firm believer" in the mandate of the global lender.

The new IMF chief said she assumes her position fully aware of the challenges. "Global economic growth continues to disappoint. Trade tensions persist and debt burdens are rising in many countries," she said, adding that "warning signs are flashing."

"My immediate priority for the IMF is to help members minimize the risk of crisis and be ready to cope with downturns should they occur," Georgieva said. "And yet we should not lose sight of the longer term objective to build stronger economies and improve people's lives on the foundation of sound monetary, fiscal and structural policies."

The new IMF managing director added that it also means dealing with long-term challenges such as inequalities, climate risks and rapid technological change.

"My goal is to strengthen the fund by ensuring that it is well resourced, well-governed, always even-handed, forward-looking and attentive to the needs of all our members, big and small, rich and poor," Georgieva said.

Earlier this month, the IMF approved the removal of the age limit for the position of managing directors, paving the way for 66-year-old Georgieva to head the multilateral lender. Previously, the IMF's bylaws had prohibited the appointment of a candidate aged 65 or over as managing director and from serving past his/her 70th birthday.

The position of IMF chief has always been held by Europeans while the head of the World Bank has traditionally been American, an informal arrangement that has stayed in place for over seven decades.

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