War of words intensifies over China’s allegations of bias against IMF chief

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A war of words over the future of IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva is expected to come to a head in the coming days as the fund’s board meets to examine allegations that she manipulated data to favor China in a previous role.

The allegations relate to her time as managing director of the World Bank, a post she left to take the management position at the IMF in October 2019. A report commissioned by the bank’s board found her responsible for falsifying China’s scores in three business metrics in order to push it up the rankings in the 2018 edition of the bank’s widely-watched Doing Business annual report.

Georgieva rejected the report’s findings and denied any wrongdoing.

On Thursday, a group of 331 former World Bank employees wrote to the bank’s board of directors describing “unprecedented reputational risks” generated by the report, the result of investigations by law firm WilmerHale.

“These results must be treated by the management and the board of directors of the bank with decisive and substantial action to restore public confidence that the bank’s data and the resulting statistical products are free from political and strategic manipulation. “, they wrote.

“Otherwise, public confidence in the operations, practices and policies of our institution will erode. “

The signatories of the letter, as seen by the Financial Times, include a former chief executive, two former executive directors and four former vice presidents of the bank, as well as several other former senior bank officials.

The actions described by WilmerHale, they wrote, “constitute a form of institutional corruption” and “represent a flagrant abuse of the supervisory authority of the management.”

A spokesperson for Georgieva said: “Kristalina has made the cause of multilateralism her life’s work. She has acted with integrity to support the institutions she has served and will not be deterred by these false claims. ”

The IMF has stopped answering journalists’ questions about Georgieva’s stay at the World Bank, referring them to a public relations agency, SKDK, which it has retained.

SKDK has distributed a series of statements of support for Georgieva in recent days, including two collections of tweets from women and prominent national leaders, and a statement from 16 African finance ministers released on Saturday.

“The allegations surrounding the World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 report are serious and should be investigated,” the ministers wrote. “However, we also believe that this must be done in a way that does not undermine the integrity of the IMF and, most importantly, must allow for a fair and equitable process.”

Ministers praised Georgieva for his “integrity, energy and progressive guidance” and for his role in delivering $ 30 billion to African economies in 2020 in the form of IMF loans.

Georgieva dismissed the WilmerHale report’s claims, saying she fundamentally disagreed with its findings and implications and that it was “not true” that she pressured anyone to change the Doing Business reports.

She did not publicly address the details of the allegations out of respect, she said, for the consideration of the case by the IMF board. The board is expected to question WilmerHale’s lawyers about the report on Monday and hear Georgieva’s account of the events he describes on Tuesday.

The case came at what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the IMF and the World Bank, as they prepare for their joint annual meetings which are due to begin on October 11.


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