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IMF official named IDB vice president

A senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) executive who has been in the forefront of some of the major economic policy challenges of recent years took up her duties in January as the IDB's executive vice president.

K. Burke Dillon, a United States citizen and formerly head of the IMF's Administration Department, replaces Nancy Birdsall, who left the Bank in September of 1998 to join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Dillon joined the Fund as a program economist for Peru and Kenya in 1973. During the debt crisis of the 1980s, she was responsible for debt rescheduling and balance of payments assistance for Argentina. Later, as head of the External Finance Division, she oversaw debt rescheduling and program financing for the imf as a whole. Following that, as Southern Africa division chief, she served as mission chief in Zambia, which was a key case for developing IMF policies on countries with arrears to the Fund.

In 1979-80 Dillon took a leave of absence from the imf to join U.S. President Jimmy Carter's Council of Economic Advisers as senior staff economist for finance, money, housing and urban policy.

In 1993, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Dillon was named to head the Fund's Moscow office.

New mission. Recalling her initial Latin American assignments with the IMF, Dillon described her move to the IDB as a kind of "coming back home." She said she particularly looks forward to being a part of the Bank's project-oriented mission.

"Such IMF concerns as money supply, growth rates and fiscal deficits are critical, but abstract," she said. "I am eager to work on projects where you can actually know the people who are benefiting."

She expressed a special interest in microfinance and in designing ways to improve the environment for small business.

"One thing that has always struck me in developing countries," she said, "is how many ways small business can be impeded by regulations and other interventions."

From her vantage point at the IMF, she has been impressed by what she called the "incredible progress" Latin America has achieved in the last decade. "The challenge now is to make sure that what's happening on the financial side, along with the hurricane disasters in Central America and the Caribbean, don't undo the excellent gains the countries have made.

"We must do everything possible to support the countries through this exceptional period," she said.

A self-described "former staff association activist," Dillon championed women's causes in her early years at the Fund. "We had a lot of issues of unequal benefits then, written right in the rules," she said.

Her activist inclinations remain intact. "At the IDB I intend to give a very high priority to fairness," she said. "People should work under the same rules and the same conditions. If a rule is bad, you should change it. But if it exists, it should apply to everyone."

A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Dillon has a degree in economics from Northwestern University and graduate degrees in economics from the London School of Economics and Yale University.

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