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9 February 2018

The Fi­nance Min­istry at the In­ter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The IMF’s mission includes intensifying international cooperation in the area of monetary policy, facilitating the expansion and balanced growth of world trade, and promoting the stability of exchange rates. In the office of the German Executive Director at the IMF in Washington, D.C., our colleague Sandro Maluck helps to ensure that the German government’s position is heard.

World Map with Highlight on Washington.
Source:  iStock/Fotolia

Founded in 1944 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference in Bretton Woods, the IMF is a central institution in the area of international monetary and fiscal policy cooperation. Its membership comprises 189 countries. The IMF has a staff of more than 2,600 people from 148 countries, most of them economists.

The IMF’s main task is to promote global economic and fiscal policy stability. It supports its members in three areas:

  1. Surveillance: The IMF conducts economic policy surveillance and issues economic policy recommendations.
  2. Lending: The IMF provides loans to members that are experiencing balance of payments problems, subject to economic policy conditions.
  3. Capacity building: The IMF offers technical assistance and training, especially in the areas of budget management and tax administration as well as monetary and financial market policy, but also in the areas of statistics and the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing.

The IMF is headed by the Board of Governors, where Germany is represented by the Bundesbank President. The Federal Minister of Finance acts as the alternate governor and is also a member of the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC). The IMFC meets twice a year to agree on the IMF’s strategic direction and to advise the Board of Governors on issues of surveillance, the international monetary system, and potential responses to sudden disturbances that threaten the system as a whole.

The Executive Board is responsible for the IMF’s day-to-day management. It consists of 24 Executive Directors (EDs). Eight of the EDs are representatives of individual member countries (the U.S., China, Germany, Japan, France, the UK, Russia, and Saudi Arabia); the other sixteen EDs each represent the interests of several members. Each member country holds a capital share in the IMF, known as the quota. A country’s quota is calculated on the basis of economic policy parameters and determines the member’s voting power. Germany’s vote is cast by the German Executive Director Steffen Meyer or his deputy Klaus Merk on the basis of instructions from the German government. For example, a decision on whether Germany should agree to an IMF lending programme is, if possible, taken jointly by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Bundesbank.

In addition to the German Executive Director and his deputy, the office of the German Executive Director currently consists of five advisors and two assistants. The office represents the interests of the German government and the Bundesbank on the Executive Board. Of course this requires permanent contact with colleagues in Berlin and in Frankfurt. The office also coordinates positions with other member countries.

Interview with Sandro Maluck

I have always been interested in international monetary and fiscal policy, starting at university, where I studied economics, and then throughout my traineeship at the Bundesbank, where I started out working on international financial market policy and then became part of the G7/G20 Sherpa staff. Among other things, I dealt with IMF topics and worked together closely with my colleagues at the Federal Ministry of Finance.

For an economist, working at the IMF is a big deal. When an opportunity came up to spend three years working on international monetary and fiscal policy issues as an advisor to the German Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund, I jumped at the chance to apply.

Of course it’s the kind of decision you can only take together with your family, but luckily they were very excited at the prospect of moving to the U.S. for three years. My children asked the same questions every day on their way to school: Are we going to America? Is it really going to happen? When are we finally going? They were absolutely delighted when I got the job. But of course that was just the start of all the organisation and planning.

We live in Tenleytown. We wanted a place that was within cycling distance to work and walking distance to school, near the Metro, and in a neighbourhood with plenty of cafés and restaurants. When choosing our neighbourhood, we also had to think about the school that the children would go to.

Like in Germany, where you go to school is determined by where you live. The school year was starting only a week after our arrival in Washington, so we were under a lot of time pressure! But with the help of an agent, we managed to find a house within two days, and we are still very happy there.

My work here is very diverse. We are the link between the German government and the Bundesbank on the one hand and the IMF on the other hand, so we facilitate the flow of information both ways. For example, if we receive a query about the status of an IMF programme or about current economic trends in a certain country, we talk to IMF experts here and then answer the questions of our colleagues in Germany.

At the same time, we are approached by the IMF at the working and management level when they want to find out about the position of the German government or the Bundesbank on certain issues. Specifically, this means that we spend a lot of time every day communicating with IMF experts or other ED offices to enable us to represent or agree on certain positions. In addition, we write position papers and comments on individual countries or on issues of IMF business policy, prepare Executive Board meetings, and write reports for our colleagues in Germany about discussions that took place here in Washington.

My family and I take advantage of weekends and days off to get to know the country. When we are not travelling, we enjoy the countless opportunities this city has to offer. Washington might not be a match for New York City in terms of its cultural life, but the Smithsonian Institution’s museums are phenomenal for people of all ages. And the whole family loves going to football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey games and cheering for the city’s teams.

The IMF’s annual and spring meetings, which are attended by the finance ministers and central bank governors of the member countries, are always special events that feature plenty of highlights. The meetings were even more exciting during Germany’s G20 presidency in 2017. But there are also smaller highlights that make working here an unforgettable experience: one such special moment was the first time I spoke for Germany before the Executive Board.

The opportunity to attend a United Nations meeting in New York as our office’s representative was definitely another high point.

I have been seconded to the IMF for a total of three years. I will then return to the German Federal Ministry of Finance. It is not clear yet what my responsibilities will be. I would very much like to continue working in the area of international economic and monetary policy or financial market policy.

That’s not an easy question for me to answer. Would we consider moving to Washington for good? Probably not – we are too attached to Europe and to Berlin. Would we come back here at some point in the future? Absolutely! Ideally, we would alternate: three years here and three years there.

Mr Maluck, thank you for those fascinating insights into your life in Washington, D.C.

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