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Tharman 'on shortlist to head IMF'

Current head - Christine Lagarde - stepping down temporarily while her nomination for president of the European Central Bank is under way

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Mr Tharman was the first Asian to be appointed chairman of the IMF policy steering committee in 2011.

Singapore

SENIOR Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam is among those shortlisted to be the next head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), according to a report in The New York Times on Thursday.

The post, which has traditionally gone to a European, is set to be vacated ahead of schedule with the surprise departure of current head Christine Lagarde, whose second five-year term began in 2016.

On Tuesday, Ms Lagarde was nominated president of the European Central Bank and said she was temporarily relinquishing her responsibilities as IMF managing director during the nomination period.

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The IMF aims to ensure the stability of the international monetary system. Its managing director is chosen by consensus among its 24-member executive board.

The NYT mentioned Mr Tharman as being "among the names that have emerged on early shortlists", alongside former IMF deputy managing director Agustín Carstens, who is Mexican, and global investment management firm Pimco's former chief executive Mohamed El-Erian, who is American. Departing Bank of England governor Mark Carney is also among those rumoured for the job, said NYT.

Separately, Agence France-Presse has named Europeans such as Bank of France chief François Villeroy de Galhau, French politician Pierre Moscovici, and World Bank chief operating officer Kristalina Georgieva, from Bulgaria, as "early candidates mentioned as possible successors".

Past IMF managing directors have had backgrounds as politicians, economists, civil servants and central bankers - often having held several of the above roles.

Mr Tharman himself has been chairman of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) since 2011.

He began working life in MAS' economics department, then joined the Administrative Service in 1995, in the education ministry. He returned to the MAS as deputy managing director before leaving in 2001 - by then managing director - for politics.

In Cabinet, he has previously served as Minister for Education, Minister for Finance, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies.

In the latest Cabinet reshuffle, he relinquished his appointment as DPM from May 1, staying in Cabinet as Senior Minister. Though redesignated Coordinating Minister for Social Policies, he continues to advise the prime minister on economic policies.

No stranger to the IMF, Mr Tharman was the first Asian to be appointed chairman of its policy steering committee, the International Monetary and Financial Committee, in 2011. He was later asked to extend his three-year term by another year, till 2015.

He is also the first Asian chair of the Group of Thirty, a global body of financial experts, with his five-year term having begun on Jan 1, 2017. In 2017, he chaired the G20 Eminent Persons Group on Global Financial Governance, set up to review and give recommendations on international financial and monetary systems.