Stoltenberg floated as a new IMF boss

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Norway’s popular prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is being mentioned among various candidates to take over as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after its most recent boss resigned in the wake of sexual assault charges. An international competition to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn is underway.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg with former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the United Nations last year. PHOTO: IMF/Stephen Jaffe

Stoltenberg, educated as a social economist, is in the midst of his third term as prime minister after the left-center coalition he leads won re-election in 2009. Stoltenberg himself has claimed he merely intends to work towards keeping his Labour Party in government power, but speculation has been rampant of late as to what Stoltenberg will do next.

Some doubt he’ll go for a fourth term as prime minister (in addition to winning the national elections in 2005 and 2009, he served briefly as prime minister around a decade ago as well). Stoltenberg, who also has served in  several other cabinet posts since the early 1990s, is only 52 years old and many political observers believe he’d be open to a top international job after a career in politics in Norway.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg showed this view from his office to Dominique Strauss-Kahn during a visit to Oslo by the former IMF boss in 2009. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

He recently has made a name for himself worldwide through his leadership on climate change issues, the international vaccination programs he’s supported along with Microsoft founder Bill Gates and various programs backed by the United Nations. Gates was in Oslo earlier this week, to seek more co-funding from Norway, and had a breakfast meeting with Stoltenberg. He has called the GAVI vaccination that he and Stoltenberg launched in 2000 “a miracle,” since it has save an estimated 5 million lives.

Stoltenberg clearly enjoys working on the international stage and has a vast network of contacts. The top IMF post traditionally goes to a European leader, and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) commentator Steinar Mediaas called Stoltenberg a “strong” candidate.

“One thing that’s interesting is that several Chinese leaders seem to want someone from a neutral country as top leader in the IMF,” Mediaas said, adding that “then it’s natural to think about someone from Norway” since Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU). China has, however, been angry with Norway since the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.

Others say the IMF could benefit from the credibility of a sitting, re-elected prime minister who also has a background in economics and a broad global network. Other top European candidates, however, include French Finance Minister Christine Lagard and the head of Germany’s Bundesbank, Axel Weber. All corners of the world want representation on the IMF with countries from the US to Mexico to South Africa and Turkey putting forward their candidates as well.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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