Ex-Argentina central banker tipped for Bank of Israel post

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A former head of Argentina’s central bank Mario Blejer has emerged as a top candidate to run the Bank of Israel after two nominees dropped out in an embarrassment to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blejer, 65, worked in senior positions at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank before a brief stint as president of Argentina’s central bank during the country’s economic crisis in 2002. He stepped down after a disagreement with the economy minister.

Israel’s newspapers said Blejer is Netanyahu’s top candidate but a finance ministry spokeswoman said on Sunday that former Bank of Israel deputy governor Zvi Eckstein, Accountant-General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu and ex-Finance Ministry director-general Victor Medina are also in the running.

The candidates are undergoing a vetting process from a panel that oversees senior civil appointments.

The Haaretz daily reported that Blejer, who received his undergraduate and Master’s degrees at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, arrived in Israel over the weekend to meet Netanyahu.

Stanley Fischer said in January he planned to step down at the end of June after eight years as central bank chief.

Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid in late June nominated Jacob Frenkel, who headed the Bank of Israel in the 1990s, to replace Fischer.

Frenkel pulled out after reports that he was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting in Hong Kong’s airport in 2006. The charges were dropped but Frenkel said he withdrew his bid because of a “witch hunt.”

Two days later, Bank Hapoalim chief economist Leo Leiderman was nominated but he pulled out, citing personal reasons. Leiderman has not explained his decision, leaving the media to speculate whether it was because of revelations that he used to consult astrologers or other skeletons in his cupboard.

Netanyahu and Lapid have been criticized for failing to fill the job of central bank governor, raising concerns about Israel’s economic leadership.

Fischer’s deputy, Karnit Flug, is currently acting central bank chief. After being passed over numerous times for the top spot, Flug said she would step down once a new governor is in place.

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