No Man Is An Island: DSK, The IMF And The Global Economy

20 May 2011.

No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were.– John Donne 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you probably already know the tale of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (often referred to in the media as DSK), the now EX Managing Director of the IMF.

By now you would have also heard about the sordid details of what allegedly happened in a New York hotel room, or about DSK’s reputation and history as a womaniser, or even about how the whole incident was a conspiracy to undermine DSK’s presidential bid in France.

Here at however, we only care about one thing – whether DSK’s scandal and subsequent resignation has had any impact on the global economy.

Judging by a quick survey of global response and statements, people are clearly divided over the influence of ONE man on an international organisation with ONE-HUNDRED AND EIGHT SEVEN member countries that represents nearly the entire global population of 6.775 billion people.

On the one hand, many people, including the IMF itself, insist that despite the shocking allegations and the resignation of DSK, it is business as usual for both the institution as well as for the global economy.

“We are dealing with an institution, not with a particular person,” said Lucinda Creighton, the Irish Minister for European Affairs.

Amadeu Altafaj, spokesperson for the European Commission’s Committee for Economic Affairs added that, “We are quite confident that there will be continuity in operations and in decision-making in the IMF.”

However, DSK advocates have pointed to the impact that DSK has had in transforming the IMF.

Prior to DSK’s appointment as the Managing Director, many critics had labelled the IMF as an outdated institution that was in danger of becoming “irrelevant”. DSK is credited to have led the charge to introduce reforms within the IMF as well as creating a more proactive role for the IMF in the wake of the global financial crisis.Economist Joseph Stiglitz lavished praise on DSK in a column ( published just days before the alleged incident. In it, Stiglitz described DSK as a “sagacious leader” and declared that “a new IMF has gradually and cautiously emerged under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn”.

The Fear That Has Been Caused
The status of the “new IMF” now appears to be called into questioned. However, the more pressing concern should be DSK’s resignation would have any economic bearing to the world. 

Almost immediately after DSK’s arrest on 14 May 2011, reports began to spring up on the potential damage that the incident may cause, particularly in Europe.

According to Mohamed A. El-Erian, himself a potential candidate to replace DSK as Managing Director of the IMF,

“there are countries that are, and should be wondering about the impact that all this could have on them.”Greece is first among them.

Desperate to avoid a debt restructuring, Greece is heavily dependent on exceptional official assistance. Up to now, a DSK-led IMF has shown little hesitation in aligning itself with a controversial European approach that uses liquidity to address a solvency problem — essentially, piling new debt on top of Greece’s already excessive debt.

A possible DSK departure from the IMF would make the institution less enthusiastic for an approach that has already shown signs of slippage, ineffectiveness and overall fatigue.”

Concurrently, TIME magazine also published similar but contradicting articles that pondered the implications of the DSK scandal on two separate currencies.

Is There Really a Cause for Concern?
At this point, it is hard to tell whether these fears are justified or simply a knee jerk reaction to what undoubtedly was a huge shock to economic and financial observers.

Hours after DSK’s arrest, the general consensus in the news media was on how financial markets were bound to react negatively to the arrest.

Yet the end result proved to be contrary to popular opinion. According to Reuters, since the news of the scandal broke, there has been “little discernible impact” for asset prices and financial markets. In Europe, where most analysts believed that the greatest impact would occur, the stock markets were generally unmoved.


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