IMF chief denies trying to boost China in World Bank rankings

International Monetary Fund updates

Kristalina Georgieva has stepped up her battle to remain at the helm of the IMF amid mounting calls for her resignation, issuing a forceful denial of claims she improperly pressured World Bank staff to change a flagship country ranking to benefit China.

“Let me be clear: the conclusions are wrong. I did not pressure anyone to alter any reports,” Georgieva said in a statement on Friday.

Her remarks come as the IMF board weighs findings from a report released last week by the World Bank that sent shockwaves across both Washington-based multilateral financial institutions.

The report, written by lawyers at Wilmer Hale, detailed Georgieva’s alleged efforts in 2017 to amend rankings in the World Bank’s annual Doing Business report while she served as its chief executive, after coming under pressure from officials in Beijing to improve China’s position while the bank negotiated a multibillion-dollar capital increase.

“There was absolutely no quid pro quo related to funding for the World Bank of any kind,” Georgieva said in her statement on Friday. “Reviewing the integrity of these reports was within my professional responsibilities at that time, and, unlike what has been reported, I followed all protocols for editing the report.”

Georgieva said she looked forward to briefing the IMF board about the findings “soon”. Executive directors representing the fund’s shareholders have been considering the allegations without coming to any specific conclusions so far.

Many governments, including the Biden administration in the US, have not said whether they have confidence in Georgieva’s ability to continue in the job.

Maxine Waters, Democratic chair of the US House financial services committee, joined Republican members in questioning her leadership. 

“This has undermined the reputation of the World Bank, and it has also called into question the current leadership at the IMF, where the integrity of data is critical to its mission, and where undue influence by any self-interested power could put the stability of the global financial system at risk,” Waters said.

The IMF chief said that while at the World Bank she had merely asked her team to “ensure accuracy” in the Doing Business report rankings.

“Data integrity is core to the institutions that I have led over my public service career, and I would never be party to any alteration of data for political purposes,” Georgieva wrote.

She also stressed her priorities for her current role, with the IMF and World Bank annual meetings just a few weeks away in mid-October: “As the world faces an urgent and complex set of challenges, from Covid to inclusive growth, from climate change to gender and racial equality, our work at the IMF has never been more vital.”

But Georgieva acknowledged that the allegations against her — as well as her muted public response since they surfaced last week — had caused unhappiness among IMF staff.

“As much as I have strived to be open and inclusive, I was very sorry to learn that some staffers felt their concerns were not heard,” Georgieva said. “Moving forward, I will make sure to be even more attentive to hearing staff views. And I will make sure we have accessible channels for our colleagues to express those views. A robust exchange of ideas and opinions is essential to a strong work environment.”

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