Is Agustin Carstens Too Fat To Be IMF Chief?

The race to be IMF chief has come down to two candidates. The favorite is France’s finance minister, Christine Lagarde. She has been deeply involved in the EU bailouts of Greece and Portugal and is seen as critical to ensuring German participation in the future funding of troubled nations. The objection to her, mostly from developing nations, is that she would be one in a long line of Europeans to run the IMF. Europe is not the economic power it once was. Large developing nations like China may want a chief who has ties to the rising powers of Asia and Latin America.

The other candidate for the IMF job is former Mexican central bank head Agustin Carstens. He is a favorite of many of the countries outside the US and EU. He could be a bridge between Mexican allies, which include the US, and developing nations like Brazil.

The question is whether Agustin Carstens has the stamina and endurance to perform this job over a long period of time. This has nothing to do with his intellectual gifts or his long-time role as a financial policy maker. Among other credentials he has a economics from the University of Chicago. He was also Mexico’s minister of finance from early 2006 to early 2009. The issue about Carstens is that, at 54, he is morbidly obese. Many people would say that weight should not rule him out as a possible IMF head and the subject is generally taboo. But, obesity does have a recognized effect on health and energy and increases the risk of many serious illnesses in a middle aged man .Dominique Strauss-Kahn had a grueling schedule over the course of the long period in which he served as the IMF director.  The economic crisis only increased the tremendous  amounts of travel and grueling hours of work.

The issue of obesity could be seen as  discrimination and in many cases it would be. However the next head of the IMF will be managing both the crisis in Europe and the broader issues of the role that the countries of the old world and the new have in the agency’s agenda. Is health a critical factor in the selection of the next IMF head. It is a fair topic to raise about Agustin Carstens, particularly when the demands on the organization and its director are greater than ever.

Douglas A. McIntyre

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