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IMF's Georgieva interested in second term as fund's head, has support, say sources

FILE PHOTO: IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during an interview in Sao Paulo

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva is interested in a second five-year term heading up the global lender and is poised to secure sufficient support among member countries, sources familiar with the plans said.

Georgieva's term ends on Sept. 30.

The Bulgarian economist last week won the backing of French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who told reporters during the Group of 20 finance meetings in Sao Paulo that Georgieva had done a "great job" leading the institution and that France would support her for a second term.

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Le Maire's support was critical, given that European countries traditionally nominate a candidate to lead the IMF, although all European Union members must agree. The final decision is made by the institution's board of directors.

Georgieva last week told Reuters that she was focused on the job at hand and not on whether to seek a new term. At a press briefing on Thursday, IMF spokesperson Julie Kozack referred questions about a second term to Georgieva herself.

Bloomberg first reported that Georgieva was interested in a second term with likely sufficient support.

Georgieva is the second woman to head the IMF and the first person from an emerging market economy.

Keeping Georgieva on for a second term would help answer longstanding concerns raised by emerging market and developing countries over the U.S.-European duopoly at the two global financial institutions, the IMF and World Bank.

A self-described "eternal optimist," Georgieva has weathered huge shocks to the global economy ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak just months after she took office to the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She is focused on bolstering prospects for medium-term growth, which is lagging historical levels, managing ongoing sovereign debt challenges, and guiding the IMF through a complicated quota revamp.

WEATHERING CRITICISM

Georgieva drew criticism inside and outside the IMF early on for her push to include climate change as a factor in surveillance reports on member countries' economies and her great interest in emerging market and developing economies.

She's been instrumental in securing large loans for Ukraine, helping to catalyze additional funds to help its economy weather the strains of the two-year war against Russia's invasion, overseen a revamp of Argentina's massive loan program, and worked steadily to help China embrace sovereign debt restructurings.

Georgieva also survived a big personal challenge in 2021 when the IMF's executive board expressed its full confidence in her after reviewing allegations that while working at the World Bank, where she was CEO prior to taking the top job at the IMF, she pressured staff to alter data to favor China.

Sources familiar with the IMF's process on naming a head said the selection would be settled quickly once Europe unites around a candidate.

While Georgieva's term won't end for months, some people familiar with the matter said it makes sense to make decisions before the April 15-20 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank so that the leadership issue does not overshadow the already full agenda for the meetings.

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Additional reporting by Juby Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)