Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Canada's IMF Executive Director

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

Canada's IMF Executive Director

Article excerpt

For many years, public administration literature has explored the degree of politicization of Canada's public service. Many have argued that the trend towards increased politicization of the public service is more evident today than ever before (Peters and Pierre 2004). Recent developments in Canadian politics have highlighted the public service's own "persona," which has brought into question the public service's responsibility and accountability (Savoie 2006). The question of how much power and influence on policymaking the public service exerts has also been debated in the literature.

This article adds empirical findings to this broader theoretical literature by examining the degree of autonomy of Canada's executive director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), often a career public servant from the Department of Finance or Bank of Canada sent to Washington, D.C. to represent Canadian interests. Little is known about this position in the public service. How autonomous from Ottawa are Canadian IMF directors? How do Canadian executive board directors make their decisions at the IMF? What IMF agenda items have been proposed by Canada's executive directors, and, most importantly, did these agenda items originate from the Department of Finance and Bank of Canada or directly from the directors' office in Washington, D.C.? Is the appointment of the executive director politicized or has it been professionalized? This article also seeks to better understand the hiring and recruitment of executive directors and takes an important first step in providing a better understanding of this coveted yet relatively unknown position in the public service.

Personal interviews were conducted with seven of Canada's former executive directors and with three staff members from the Department of Finance, one from the Bank of Canada, and two from the IMF to understand the autonomy, authority and accountability of the position of director. Personal interviews with American, European, and non-western executive directors were also conducted to derive a better sense of their perceptions of some of the stances taken by Canadian directors. Interviews took place between 16 October 2007 and 29 May 2008. Persons interviewed will remain anonymous out of respect for their stated wishes. As well as the interviews, qualitative content analysis of Canada's reports on the IMF and Department of Finance memos and correspondence with the IMF (acquired through access-to-information legislation) were conducted to develop a more systematic and nuanced understanding of Canada's executive director position.

The role of executive directors at the IMF

Established in 1946, the IMF has an executive board that currently comprises twenty-four directors, who are, typically, delegated from the public service in the finance ministries and central banks of Fund member countries. These executive directors are charged with the Fund's day-to-day affairs and meet several times a week. To this end, the board of governors, which is the IMF's highest decision-making body, has delegated most of its powers to the executive board. The board of governors, which in turn meets annually, entrusts the executive directors with the responsibility of representing the interests of IMF member states. To ensure an effective and manageable board, the number of directors is limited by the Fund's articles of agreement. As new members have entered the IMF over the years, however, the number of executive directors has changed, starting with twelve executive directors at the IMF's inception. The current number of twenty-four was introduced in 1992.

The board's composition reflects a weighted voting formula based on member states' contribution to IMF capital (also referred to as subscription). Five appointed executive board seats are given to the largest five contributors to IMF capital. Since the early 1970s, these seats have been occupied by the United States, Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. …

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