Experts question Agus for ‘personal’ backing of Lagarde
International relations observers agree are questioning Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo “personal” support of French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde to lead the International Monetary Fund(IMF).
University of Indonesia international relations expert Mahmud Syaltout said on Wednesday that Agus’ ministerial appointment was political, so everything he said was a political statement from a public diplomacy point of view.
“The IMF speaks about monetary affairs and a finance ministry is a representation of a country’s monetary regulator. So what Agus said about his ‘personal support’ of Lagarde for the IMF’s top post is legitimate,” he told The Jakarta Post.
“The debate may be in the legal aspect. Is it legal for a minister to talk about international affairs? Do we have a law that forbids a minister to do so? If there is such a law, then Agus has made a blunder and he can be asked to step down.”
Agus made his statement supporting Lagarde on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on East Asia at the Shangri-La hotel in Jakarta on Sunday.
Lagarde, 55, will compete with Mexico’s central bank chief Agustin Carstens, 52, to be the IMF’s managing director, a post left vacant after Dominique Strauss-Kahn resigned following his arrest in New York on sexual assault allegations in May.
Nations of the so-called BRIC group of Brazil, India, China and South Africa have urged the IMF to appoint more people from developing countries to the fund’s senior positions.
Mahmud and Zamroni Salim, an economics researcher at the Habibie Center, said there would be no benefit to Indonesia if Lagarde was appointed to replace Strauss-Kahn.
“I don’t see any benefit to the Indonesian government” on supporting Lagarde, Zamroni said, especially since Indonesia was no longer eligible for IMF aid.
One official was cool on the idea of a quid-pro-quo for Indonesian support of a European candidate to lead the IMF.
“There is no contract on that between Indonesia and the EU or between Indonesia and France,” Indroyono Soesilo, the Office of Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare’s secretary-general to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said.
Mahmud agreed with Indroyono, saying there were “no guarantees” for reciprocal treatment.
Mahmud said it was “regrettable” that Agus supported a candidate from a developed country while the other candidate came from a developing country.
The appointment of Lagarde would mean that Indonesia would have less influence in stopping Lagarde from issuing policies that benefited the EU, something she was likely to do, if appointed, Mahmud said. “It will be our loss.”
Supporting Legarde meant that Indonesia, the host of the 50th anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement last month in Bali, has failed to support the principles of the movement it helped to found, he said.
Indonesia’s backing of Lagarde was part the Indonesia-European Union Comprehensive Partnership Agreement, a comprehensive economic pact, he said.