Saturday 16 December 2017

The Punt: Blanchard keeping schtum

Jack Dorsey
Jack Dorsey

As you have likely already heard, the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the global crisis years is stepping down later this month.

Olivier Blanchard, who helped steer the Fund since 2008, was behind many of the IMF's policy shifts in recent years in response to lessons from the crisis.

He will now join the Peterson Institute for International Economics in October, where he'll no doubt write a few papers and perhaps a book or two.

But you'd be mistaken if you think he'd be tempted to pen a tell-all account of his time at the Washington-based Fund, at a time of global crisis.

In an internal media interview, Blanchard said he'll be keeping schtum.

"People who expect me to bare my soul after I leave the Fund will be disappointed. What you got is what you'll get," he said.

Asked if he had found it difficult to balance his role as an IMF spokesperson with his background as an academic, he said not so.

"I have not found this to be an issue.

"Not once in my seven years have I felt I had to avoid or fuzzy up a position I held, or had to present a position I did not believe in. If I had, I suspect I would have offered to resign."

And it seems that in retirement, he'll be revisiting a lot of what he spent his time doing while at the IMF, but in much more detail.

"I want to go back and examine what happened in Portugal, in Ireland, in Iceland, in Greece, and do the in-depth work that none of us has the time to do."

Life gets harder for Harper

How precarious has Prime Minister Stephen Harper's advantage on Canada's economy become?

Harper's rivals ratcheted up their attacks on his economic record this week after figures showed the country was in a technical recession, which isn't good news for the thousands of Irish who left our shores during the crisis here seeking jobs.

And they'll have a keen interest in what plans he has to ensure a mild recession doesn't become something more worrying.

Harper's opponents say the incumbent Conservative prime minister has given tax breaks to the wealthy and failed to stoke growth amid falling oil prices and a lower dollar.

But having staked his reputation on strong economic management, Harper has decided that the best way to win re-election when the headlines say recession is to convince the country it is no longer in one.

While Harper has been quick to argue that the slump in Canada's energy sector is due to global forces beyond his control, the risk is voters will blame the incumbent as they head to the polls next month.

He'll be hoping for some positive data in the coming weeks.

Twitter needs right character

The pressure's on for Twitter to find a replacement for its former chief executive, Dick Costolo.

In the three months since the company started searching for a new chief executive, the stock has slipped 22pc and several product executives have left.

A leading internal candidate is interim leader and co-founder Jack Dorsey - who's already CEO at a company on the verge of an initial public offering.

It's a difficult balancing act. Twitter's board meets on Thursday and plans to discuss the results from the search so far.

Investors, however, are getting impatient for directors to make a decision, or at least give a detailed update on the process.

And with the share price falling by more than 20pc, shareholders are likely getting impatient also.

The San Francisco-based social media company doesn't have the luxury of a long, drawn-out process.

Irish Independent

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