Every year the Bretton Woods Project highlights some of the most farcical remarks of Fund and World Bank staff. Our 2015 winner, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, now holds the title two-years running (see Observer Winter 2015), with her continued advocacy for gastronomics winning her the title in 2015.
She served her starter in March with a speech made at Fudan University in China, entitled Creating new ingredients for growth. During her presentation, she spilled the beans on her weakness for Chinese tea. What does tea have to do with the Chinese economy? Let Lagarde explain: “running an economy is akin to brewing an exquisite cup of Chinese tea – both require impeccable timing and a delicate mix of ingredients”, advising on the “ingredients” needed by the Chinese economy.
She made a similarly tenuous link in Lima at the World Bank and IMF’s annual meetings in October, offering Peruvian cuisine to a Peruvian audience as an analogy for the IMF’s policy recommendations. After recognising that “Peruvian cuisine … does not offer a big enough dish to respond to global unemployment and poverty”, her key message to global policymakers is that “they need to apply those recipes of Peruvian cuisine, look at the best practices around, and upgrade their policies in order to reinvigorate growth”, before once again moving on to a list of key ingredients.
It seems Lagarde couldn’t escape gastro-metaphors even during a lunch interview in September, while Gillian Tett of the Financial Times noted their order included the unlikely mix of “Japanese-style blackened cod, Andean-style quinoa, Indian okra and cheese”. It occurred to Tett that “this dizzy blend of cultural influences is a rather apt symbol of the type of globalisation that the IMF wants to promote”; perhaps not as universally appealing as Tett assumes. She even compared the managing director herself to a culinary trend, wrapping the article up with the insight that “Lagarde herself is a kind of fusion”.