Christine Lagarde: Facing down worldwide recession

Thrust into the breach during one of the worst economic crises in decades, Christine Lagarde, the new head of the IMF, has become one of the world's most powerful women

Thrust into the center of one of the worst economic crises in decades, Christine Lagarde, the new head of the International Monetary Fund, is working to prevent the overwhelming debts of countries like Greece and Italy from setting off a worldwide recession. In the process, she's become a frank advocate of tighter financial regulation - and one of the world's most powerful women. Lara Logan reports.


The following is a script of "Christine Lagarde" which aired on Nov. 20, 2011. Lara Logan is correspondent, Clem Taylor, producer.

With the world economy teetering on the edge, one woman has emerged at the center of the battle to prevent disaster.

Christine Lagarde is an accomplished lawyer who became the first female finance minister of France and is now the first woman to run the International Monetary Fund.

She took over the IMF in July after a sex scandal forced her predecessor, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to resign.

At nearly six feet tall with her striking silver hair, Lagarde's physical presence is as formidable as her reputation. She'll need those attributes and then some to keep the overwhelming debts of countries like Greece and Italy from setting off a worldwide recession.

We interviewed Christine Lagarde Friday, at the end of another turbulent week for world markets.

Christine Lagarde: It is a very serious situation, unprecedented in many ways.

Lara Logan: What's the worst case scenario?

Lagarde: Stalled growth, high unemployment, potential social unrest as a result and financial markets in disarray.

Logan: For many people around the world, for many Americans, it feels like they've been here before. Is this worse than 2008, the current crisis?

Lagarde: You know, it's a continuum of 2008. Let's face it. It's the same process that is unfolding before our eyes.

Logan: With the potential to be worse?

Lagarde: I'm reasonably optimistic and sometimes desperately optimistic. And I want to be desperately optimistic and I want to believe that countries will understand that they can actually change the course of things.

Logan: And if you look at the U.S., what are you most worried about here?

Lagarde: Political bickering. Certainly I would hope that on a bi-partisan basis both Democrats and Republicans can come to terms in their Supercommittee, about the deficit objectives and the deficit cutting measures and the debt. And there is a degree of certainty that is so much needed for markets.

Trying to save the world's economy has kept Christine Lagarde on the go from the moment she took over. When we caught up with her in Washington in September, she was on her way to address the IMF for the very first time.

Lagarde: It's not always a job where you make friends, because sometimes the truth is not that pleasant when you go through debt ceilings, deficit cutting and all the rest.

60 Minutes App

New Look. New Season. The 60 Minutes app for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch!

More from 60 Minutes

Comments