Stanley Fischer, First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, announced on May 8 that he would be leaving his position later in 2001, as soon as a smooth transition to his successor had been arranged (IMF Press Release No. 01/22, May 8).
In a statement announcing his decision, Fischer said, “I will leave the IMF with the highest respect for this institution and the deepest regard and affection for its dedicated and outstanding staff”. He expressed his gratitude to the two Managing Directors with whom he has served, Michel Camdessus and Horst Köhler, and to the member country authorities with whom he has worked closely. Köhler paid tribute to Fischer as “an extraordinary economist and public servant,” adding that he had benefited from Fischer’s advice and support, as well as from his integrity and humanity, during his first year in the IMF.
Fischer, 57, took up his position in 1994 for an initial five-year term. He was appointed to a second five-year term in 1999. He was previously the Killian Professor and head of the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1988 to 1990, he served as Vice President for Development Economics and Chief Economist at the World Bank.
Fischer served at the IMF during one of the most active and eventful periods of its history. The IMF responded to the Mexican crisis of 1994-95, the Asian crisis of 1997-98, the continuing problems that affected the Russian economy, the Brazilian crisis of 1998-99, and, most recently, the crises in Argentina and Turkey, during his tenure.
Discussing the events of the past seven years at a May 8 press conference, Fischer said that he regards the revolution in IMF transparency as the most important development in that period. He added, “We published essentially nothing in 1994, and we publish almost everything now. We talk to you [the press] far more than we ever did. We talk to the public in member countries far more than we ever did, and that is wholly to the good.”
Fischer said there were many achievements of which an IMF official might feel proud. These included the success of the Brazilian program in 1999, the design over a single weekend of a new monetary system for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the measures taken to prevent hyperinflation in Bulgaria.
“The IMF, by and large, is called on to operate in very, very difficult circumstances,” he said, adding, “I think the record speaks for itself that the Asian countries that followed the agreed programs with the IMF were the ones that succeeded and that came back most rapidly.” Asked whether in the future the IMF would play a greater role in the developing countries, Fischer replied that “the process that was invented for the HIPCs [heavily indebted poor countries], the very close integration between the work of the [World] Bank and the IMF… is a very good way of doing business. It means that we do the macroeconomics in programs where the structural components are handled by the Bank.”
He expressed his hope that the ongoing work to change the structure of the international system and to clarify the role of the exchange rate in crises would mean that his successor would deal with fewer crises. Also significant is “the work we’re doing on strengthening of financial systems and improved debt management,” he said.
As for his plans for the future, Fischer said that, while he would step down as First Deputy Managing Director once his successor came on board, he would remain in the IMF for a few months to work on some papers and possibly a book. (The complete transcript of Fischer’s press conference is available on the IMF website: www.imf.org.)
Staff Association statement
In a statement, the IMF Staff Association Committee expressed its highest regard for Fischer’s integrity, honesty, and impartiality toward member countries and the IMF staff. Noting that his “dedication to his work is legendary,” the statement said Fischer would “leave the IMF a stronger place than he found it..... He has raised our intellectual standards and strengthened our sense of mission. During the last year, he has directed his energies to supporting the Managing Director’s vision for the IMF of promoting international financial stability by concentrating on our core areas of expertise, a vision that is already beginning to show results and that the staff heartily endorses.”