As you can see, there are an unusual number of journalists in your midst today. But I want you to hear what I have to say from me personally, rather than reading it in the news, even if it is a hard message for me to have to tell you.
I have just read to the IMF Executive Board the following declaration:
“My dear colleagues, Members of the Executive Board:
The moment has come for me to ask you to discharge me of my responsibilities as Managing Director, preferably before the middle of February, by which time I will already be in my fourteenth year of service in the IMF.
Personal reasons, of which I did not even want to hear, particularly as long as we were in the midst of the Asian crisis, lead me to this decision—a decision I would never have thought would be so hard to take. But when you reappointed me for a third term, an immense honor indeed, I did not interpret it as an expression of your wish to see me serve for 15 years; that would be inappropriate in a world in permanent need of renewal of its institutions. You were generous in leaving to my judgment the choice of the right moment to pass the baton.
This is, I think, the right time.
We have advanced in many fields: we have just established a demanding but exciting work program, and the World Economic Outlook allows us to anticipate favorable trends for the world economy. So I see it as my duty now to suggest that you take advantage of these favorable circumstances to select my replacement, and to use these few months to help my successor become familiar with this superb but complex institution.
My friends, this is the right time. It is hard for me to tell you this. I do so with an enormous sense of gratitude to each of you, and to all in the IMF, for 13 years of support, understanding, and warm friendship. The time I have spent here has been the most rewarding in my long career of public service. I leave with absolute confidence in yourselves, in my management colleagues, and in the staff of the IMF. I am certain that you will continue to fulfill, under a new Managing Director and with the highest professionalism, integrity, efficiency, and continuous success, the purposes of the IMF.
Thank you all.”
Let me just tell you that much today, as this is not a farewell speech, and I have still more or less 100 days to prepare myself to bid you farewell. I will certainly need that time! But let me also tell you, something you may already suspect—that I am immensely proud to have been your boss and immensely grateful for the wonders you have performed in the past 13 years. I say wonders, and this reminds me of something I told those who were here 13 years ago, on the day of my arrival at the Fund. Just before leaving Paris, I went to pay a visit to one of my predecessors, Pierre-Paul Schweitzer, to bid him farewell and to benefit from his counsels. He congratulated me and told me, “You will have the most extraordinary job in the world. The staff of the IMF will allow you to succeed in everything you undertake. They are wonderful people. Yes, the only problem you will find intractable in Washington—the only one—will be crabgrass in your garden!”
As so frequently, this great man was right! And not only about the crabgrass.