Economist magazine calls for Georgieva to quit IMF over World Bank data scandal

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks during a joint news conference at the end of the Summit on the Financing of African Economies in Paris, France May 18, 2021. Ludovic Marin/Pool via REUTERS
The Economist magazine on Thursday called for International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva to resign over her role in a China-related data-rigging scandal while at the World Bank, saying it has undermined the IMF's credibility.

The influential London-based publication said in a scathing editorial that an external investigation's findings that Georgieva pressured staff for changes to the World Bank's "Doing Business" rankings in 2017 to favour China compromises the IMF's ability to act as the custodian of data for the world's macroeconomic statistics.

"The head of the IMF must hold the ring while two of its biggest shareholders, America and China, confront each other in a new era of geopolitical rivalry," the Economist said, adding that critics of multilateralism are already citing the findings as evidence that international bodies cannot stand up to China.

"The next time the IMF tries to referee a currency dispute, or helps reschedule the debt of a country that has borrowed from China, the fund's critics are sure to cite this investigation to undermine the institution's credibility. That is why Ms Georgieva, an esteemed servant of several international institutions, should resign," the editorial said.

It cited the allegation in the WilmerHale law firm's report that Georgieva, who at the time was the World Bank's CEO, thanked a senior bank researcher for "doing his bit for multilateralism" in altering the China data.

"Now she too should do her bit for multilateralism by falling on her sword," the Economist said.

The World Bank's "Doing Business" reports, now cancelled, ranked countries based on their regulatory and legal environments, ease of business startups, financing, infrastructure and other business climate measures.

Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is a longtime former World Bank economist and European Commission official, has denied the accusations in the WilmerHale report, saying last week they are "not true" and she has never pressured staff to manipulate data.

The IMF's executive board is conducting its own review of the allegations and has emphasized "the importance it attached to conducting a thorough, objective and timely review."

An IMF spokesman declined comment on the Economist's editorial. A US Treasury spokeswoman also declined comment beyond the Treasury's earlier statement that is analysing "serious findings" in the WilmerHale report.