Bulgarian economist Kristalina Georgieva was confirmed on Wednesday as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first head of the global lender from an emerging market economy.
A centre-right politician who grew up in Bulgaria under communism, Ms Georgieva built a reputation in her time at the World Bank and European Commission as a straight-shooter, champion of gender equality and leader in the fight against climate change.
She has been on leave from her post as chief executive of the World Bank during the nomination process for the IMF, the world’s crisis lender that has assets of $1 trillion.
Ms Georgieva, 66, will face challenges including a global economic slowdown triggered by escalating trade tension between the US and China.
“Warning signs are flashing and we must be ready to be tested,” she said at the bank’s Washington headquarters after her confirmation.
The US, which represents the largest voting bloc on the IMF board, has withdrawn from multilateral accords and risks are growing in emerging markets such as Argentina, which last year received a $57 billion (Dh209.4bn) bailout, the IMF’s largest.
Ms Georgieva said her priority would be to help the bank’s 189 member countries minimise risks. The bank would be attentive to all members, big or small, she said.
Ms Georgieva, backed by French President Emmanuel Macron, last month won support from the rest of the EU and tacit backing from the US.
She will need to “work on rebuilding the institution’s legitimacy among emerging market economies”, said Prof Eswar Prasad of Cornell University, a former head of the bank’s China department.
The world’s “major advanced economies continue to view the key international financial institutions as their fiefdoms”, Prof Prasad said.
An IMF board source told Reuters before Wednesday’s confirmation that: “She has convinced the board that she is the leader that the institution needs and will be a strong advocate for the multilateral system.”