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FIRST ON CNBC: CNBC TRANSCRIPT: CNBC'S MARIA BARTIROMO SPEAKS WITH JOHN LIPSKY, ACTING MANAGING DIRECTOR, IMF TODAY

WHEN: TODAY, MONDAY, MAY 23RD AT 4:15PM ET

WHERE: CNBC'S "CLOSING BELL WITH MARIA BARTIROMO"

Following is the unofficial transcript of a FIRST ON CNBC interview with John Lipsky, Acting Managing Director, IMF today on CNBC's "Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo." All references must be sourced to CNBC.

BARTIROMO: THE DEBATE OVER WHO SHOULD TAKE OVER THE TOP SPOT AT THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND CONTINUES TODAY. FOR THE LAST SIX DECADES IT HAS BEEN AN UNOFFICIAL TRADITION THE LEADER OF THE INSTITUTION BE EUROPEAN A TRADITION THAT HAS COME UNDER THE SCRUTINY RECENTLY. AS TO THE LIST OF POSSIBLE SUCCESSORS, FRENCH FINANCE MINISTER CHRISTINE LAGARDE'S NAME IS TOPPING THE LIST. SHE SPOKE EXCLUSIVELY TO CNBC EARLIER TODAY ABOUT THE PROSPECT OF TAKING ON THE ROLE. LISTEN TO THIS.

LAGARDE: I WOULD SAY WHAT AN INTERESTING QUESTION.

BARTIROMO: THE DECISION WHO WILL TAKE OVER IS EXPECTED TO BE MADE BY THE END OF JUNE. THE TROUBLES OVER THE EURO ZONE CONTINUE AND FOR NOW THE ROLE LEADERSHIP FALLS TO THE ACTING DIRECTOR JOHN LIPSKY,JOINS ME NOW IN A FIRST ON CNBC INTERVIEW. WONDERFUL TO HAVE ON THE PROGRAM ONCE AGAIN, WELCOME BACK.

LIPSKY: ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO TALK TO YOU.

BARTIROMO: WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THE TALK OF CHRISTINE LAGARDE AS THE NEXT LEADER OF THE IMF?

LIPSKY: SHE IS A VERY TALENTED AND EXPERIENCED LEADER. SHE HAS DONE AN EXCELLENT JOB AS FINANCE MINISTER AND I'M SURE SHE WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT MANAGING DIRECTOR. HAPPILY, THERE ARE A NUMBER OF CANDIDATES THAT HAVE BEEN MENTIONED. OTHERS HAVE ACTUALLY BEEN NOMINATED FORMALLY, I'M PLEASED TO SAY ALL SEEM TO BE EXCELLENT NAMES.

BARTIROMO: WHAT SPECIFICALLY ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN TERM OF THE RESUME? WHY IS CHRISTINE LAGARDE A WONDERFUL CHOICE? TELL ME WHAT THE QUALIFICATIONS ARE?

LIPSKY: LET MAKE CLEAR, FIRST OF ALL THIS CHOICE IS MADE BY THE EXECUTIVE BOARD OF THE IMF REPRESENTING ITS 187 MEMBER COUNTRIES. IT'S NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OFSTAFF OR MANAGEMENT, SO WE ARE NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED. CLEARLY, THE BOARD DEVELOPED ITS OWN -- ITS OWN STANDARDS OF EXPERIENCE AND EXPERTISE BUT, OFCOURSE, MADAM LAGARDE HAS BEEN FINANCE MINISTER AT A TIME OF GREAT DIFFICULTIES IN THE EURO ZONE, ESPECIALLY SOME PERIPHERAL COUNTRIES AND FORMING NOVEL AND INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO DEALINGWITH THESE PROBLEMS. IN FACT, IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE IMF.

BARTIROMO: JOHN, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE IMF TODAY? WHAT KIND OF UPSET HAS THE SCANDAL INVOLVING DSK CREATED FOR THE FUND?

LIPSKY: YOU CAN IMAGINE THE SENSE OF SHOCK AND SADNESS OVER THESE CIRCUMSTANCES. HARD TO BELIEVE. BUT AT THE SAME TIME THIS IS AN INSTITUTION OF INCREDIBLE TALENT, DEDICATED PROFESSIONALS, WHO UNDERSTAND THE JOB OF THE FUND IS FOREMOST AND ARE DEDICATED TO COMING TOGETHER AND MAKING SURE THE FUND IS FULLY OPERATIONAL, FULLY ABLE TO DEAL WITH THE IMPORTANT RESPONSIBILITIES THAT FACE IT.

BARTIROMO: I WANT TO ASK ABOUT THOSE RESPONSIBILITY IN PARTICULAR, THE ISSUES OF THE DAY REGARDING EUROPE AND THE PRIORITIES BUT FIRST, LET ME STAY ON THIS IDEA OF THE NEXT LEADER. WE HAVE GOT 60 HAD-YEAR TRADITION IT HAS BEEN A EUROPEAN. IS IT TIME TO BREAK THAT TRADITION WHY HAS IT BEEN A EUROPEAN ALL THIS TIME? YOU SAID MERIT WILL BE KEY TO THE DECISION.

LIPSKY: THAT'S RIGHT.THERE IS AN AGREEMENT IN FACT, ON FRIDAY, OUR EXECUTIVE BOARD MET AND AGREED ON A PROCESS AND REITERATED THAT THIS NEEDS TO BE OPEN, TRANSPARENT AND MERIT-BASED. HOPEFULLY OPEN MEANS OPEN, OPEN TO ALL. I'M CONFIDENT THAT THE DIRECTORS REPRESENTING THE MEMBERS WILL CHOOSE A LEADER WHO'S COMPLETELY QUALIFIED FOR IT TO BE EFFECTIVE AND POWERFUL IN DEALING WITH THE ISSUES THAT FACE THE FUND.

BARTIROMO: NOW, JOHN, YOU HAVE SAID WITH CONFIDENCE THAT THE IMF WILL CARRY ON ITS DUTIES AS THE SEARCH FOR THE NEW LEADERSHIP MOVES AHEAD. WHAT ARE THE INSTITUTION'S PRIORITIES RIGHT NOW, PARTICULARLY AS THE DEBT STRUGGLES CONTINUE FOR GREECE, PORTUGAL AND WE CONTINUE TO SEE SPECULATION AROUND SPAIN.

LIPSKY: OF COURSE AND WE REMAIN VERY ACTIVE IN THESE AREAS. MARIA, AS YOU MAY REMEMBER LAST MONDAY, OUR BOARD APPROVED THE LATEST TWO REVIEWS OF THE IRISH PROGRAM AND A NEW DISBURSEMENT OF FUNDS. ON FRIDAY, THE BOARD APPROVED THE PORTUGAL PROGRAM THAT IS ALONG WITH OUR EUROPEAN PARTNERS, INVOLVES TOTAL COSTS OF ABOUT $78 BILLION EUROS AND SOME -- IN SUPPORT OF A VERY THOROUGH ADJUSTMENT PROGRAM IN PORTUGAL AND RIGHT NOW, WE HAVE STAFF TEAM IN GREECE REVIEWING WITH THE GREEK AUTHORITY THEIR POLICY OPTIONS THAT'S NOT ALL, OF COURSE. THEY HAVE BEEN A FEW, AS I'M SURE YOU'RE VERY WELL AWARE, SIGNIFICANT CHANGES IN MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA REGION. WE HAVE A STAFF TEAM TODAY WORKING WITH IN CAIRO WITH THE EGYPTIAN AUTHORITIES TO REVIEW THEIR POLICY PLANS AND TO HELP TO ARRIVE IN AGREEMENT ON A SET OF POLICIES THAT WILL HELP STABILIZE AND STRENGTHEN THE EGYPTIAN ECONOMY. WE ARE IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH OTHER COUNTRIES IN THE REGION. WE ARE DEALING WITH AFRICAN MEMBERS, ETC. WE REMAIN ACTIVE ON A WHOLE GAMUT OF IMPORTANT GLOBAL ISSUES.

BARTIROMO: SO GIVEN THE REACH, THE GLOBAL REACH OF THE IMF, YOU ARETALKING ABOUT AFRICA, OF COURSE, WE KNOW HOW THE GLOBAL ECONOMY HAS SHIFT HAD SO SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE LAST DECADE, MORE EXPOSURE AND PARTICIPATION COMING FROM THE EMERGING MARKETS, DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO HAVE THE LEADER OF THE IMF EUROPEAN OR MIGHT IT BE BETTER TO HAVE SOMEONE FROM BRAZIL,CHINA, INDIA, RUSSIA, ETC, OR SOUTHEAST ASIA? WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THAT, JOHN?

LIPSKY: WELL, MARIA, OUR CONCERN IS THAT THE MANAGING DIRECTOR IS SOMONE WHO CAN PROVIDE THE KIND OF LEADERSHIP AND TALENT NEEDED TO FACE ALL THESE ISSUES. WE ARE HAPPY THAT IT IS GOING TO BE AN OPEN AND TRANSPARENT PROCESS AND WE ARE CONFIDENT THAT IT WILL BE -- THAT THE CHOICE WILL BE AN EXCELLENT ONE. AND AS I SAY, OPEN MEANS OPEN. THAT MEANS OPEN TO ALL. OUR MAIN CONCERN IS THE OUTCOME AND QUITE CONFIDENCE ABOUT THE -- BE HOW THAT WILL TURN OUT.

BARTIROMO: JOHN, WHAT'S RISK OF DEFAULT OF GREECE, PORTUGAL, IRELAND?

LIPSKY: WELL, MARIA, ALL OF THESE CASES, GREECE FIRST, IRELAND, PORTUGAL, FACE VERY DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES. THAT IS WELL KNOWN N EACH CASE, WE HAVE A PROGRAM AGREED AND SUPPORT, AGREED WITH THESE COUNTRIES AND SUPPORTED WITH OUREUROPEAN PARTNERS THAT DOES NOT CONTEMPLATE DEBT RESTRUCTURING. WE -- OF COURSE, WE ENTERED INTO THESE PROGRAMS WITH THE CONVICTION THAT WITH ADEQUATE POLICY ADJUSTMENT IN THESE COUNTRIES AND WITH THE SUPPORT OF THEIR PARTNERS, THAT THEY WILL BE ABLE TO PRODUCE THE KIND OF IMPROVEMENT, UNDERLINE IMPROVEMENTS IN THEIR COMPETITIVENESS AND ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE THAT WILL LEAD TO ECONOMIC PROGRESS AND AVOID THE NEED FOR ANY KIND OF DEBT RESTRUCTURING

BARTIROMO: JOHN, LET ME TURN TO STANDARD AND POORS, CUTTING ITS OUTLOOK FOR ITALY FROM STABLE TO NEGATIVE. ITALY HAS THE EURO ZONE'S BIGGEST DEALT PILE IN ABSOLUTE TERMS. WHAT DO INVESTORS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ITALY RIGHT NOW?

LIPSKY: THE ITALIAN ECONOMY HAS BEEN GROWING RELATIVELY SLOWLY, HOWEVER, IN TERMS OF THEIR PRIMARY FISCAL BALANCE, THEY ARE IN RELATIVELY IN GOOD SHAPE, DESPITE THEIR VERY HIGH DEBT LOAD. SO THE -- BASICALLY,ITALIANS -- ITALY, EXCUSE ME IS A HIGH SAVINGS ECONOMY, RELATIVELY HIGH SAVINGS ECONOMY. IN OTHER WORDS, THERE ARE ISSUES OF CONCERN THAT ARE BEING ADDRESSED BY THE ITALIAN AUTHORITIES, STANDARD & POOR'S AND LIKE OTHER RATING AGENCIES ACTS ON THEIR OWN VOLITION. WE ARE CONFIDENT WITH GOOD POLICIES THE EUROPEAN ECONOMY WILL PROSPER. I SHOULD SAY, MARIA REMEMBER IT WASN'T SO LONG AGO, JUST A MATTER OF MONTHS AGO THAT MARKET CONSENSUS WAS EXFOR EXAMPLE, IF PORTUGAL ENTERED INTO A STABILIZATION PROGRAM WITH THE FUND AND EUROPEAN PARTNERS CONTAGION WOULD BE INEVITABLE. I WOULD SAY WHAT IS BEING PORTRAYED AS BAD NEWS IS, IN FACT, GOOD NEWS THAT IT TURNS OUT THAT THERE HAS BEEN A RATHER SUCCESSFUL, FOR THE MOMENT AT ANY RATE, RING FENCING OF THE ECONOMIES. NO ONE IS TRYING TO SAY THE OUTLOOK IS SIMPLE OR THE SITUATION IS SIMPLE. WITH GOOD POLICIES IN PLACE AND WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE EUROPEAN PARTNERS AND THE FUND, THE PERIPHERAL COUNTRIES CAN MAKE IMPROVEMENTS AND I THINK THAT WILL GO A LONG WAY TO IMPROVING THE ATMOSPHERE IN THE EUROPEAN MARKETS.

BARITROMO: JOHN WHAT HAVE WE SEEN IN THELAST MONTH SURROUNDING THE EURO ZONE? CLEARLY, EVERY DAY WE COME IN AND WE SEE HEADLINES LIKE WORRIES OVER THE THE EURO ZONE DEBT CRISIS WORSENING OR, YOU KNOW, THE SITUATION GETTING TOUGHER. CAN YOU TALK TO US SPECIFICALLY ABOUT CHANGE THAT WE'VE SEEN? HAVE THINGS GOTTEN WORSE?

LIPSKY: LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THE SITUATION WITH REGARD TO POLICIES. HAS THERE BEEN A RESPONSE TO THE SELF-EVIDENT PROBLEMS AND THE ANSWER IS IN THE THREE PERIPHERAL COUNTRIES WITH THE MOST DIFFICULT SITUATIONS, THERE HAVE BEEN PUT IN PLACE A POLICY PROGRAM SUPPORTED BY THE INNOVATIVE RESPONSE OF THE EUROPEAN AUTHORITIES WHO CREATED THE EFSF, THE FINANCIAL FACILITY THAT ALLOWS THEM TO PROVIDE FUNDING TO THESE EURO AREA COUNTRIES. IN MY SENSE THERE HAS BEEN AN ACTIVE RESPONSE, AS I SAID, HAS ACTUALLY REDUCED THE SENSE OF A RISK OF CONTAGION. NOW IT IS GOING TO TAKE CONVINCING, NOW IMPLEMENTING THE PROGRAMS THAT -- MAKING SURE THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL AND THEN THAT, IF OVER TIME, I THINK WILL QUIET MARKET CONCERNS. BUT THERE'S NO QUESTION, THIS IS GOING TO TAKE CONCERTED EFFORT ON THE PART OF THE COUNTRIES INVOLVED.

BARTIROMO: SOUNDS LIKE YOU THINK THINGS HAVE GOT BETTER BUT IT TAKES NOW CONVINCING THE MARKETS AND IMPLEMENTING THE POLICIES.

LIPSKY: IMPLEMENTING THE POLICIES IS CRITICAL.

BARITOMO: JOHN, HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO DOMINIQUE STRAUSS-KAHN?

LIPSKY: OF COURSE YOU MEAN --

BARTIROMO: HAVE YOU SPOKE TO HIM RECENTLY SINCE THE SCANDAL BROKE?

LIPSKY: NO I HAVE NOT. BUT WE DID --

BARTIROMO: YEAH, GO AHEAD, JOHN.

LIPSKY: NO, GO AHEAD.

BARTIROMO: WHAT WERE YOU JUST GONNA SAY? I'M SORRY.

LIPSKY: WE DID RECEIVE, OF COURSE, IT'S -- GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, VERY DIFFICULT TO COMMUNICATE, BUT MR. STRAUSS-KAHN SENT A COMMUNICATION TO STAFF TO EXPLAIN TO THE STAFF AND MYSELF THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT LED TO HIS RESIGNATION.

BARTIROMO: AND JOHN, I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE GIVEN YOUR RESIGNATION, YOU HAVE SUBMITTED YOUR RESIGNATION AND YOU'RE WAITING TO HEAR FROM PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THIS RIGHT?

LIPSKY: NO, NO IT'S -- MY TERM -- MARIA, MY TERM AS FIRST DEPUTY MANAGING DIRECTOR FORMALLY ENDS AT THE END OF AUGUST. I DIDN'T RESIGN, I WOULDN'T RESIGN. I INDICATED THAT I WOULD NOT BE SEEKING A NEW TERM.

BARTIROMO: YOU ARE NOT SEEKING A NEW TERM. YOUR PLANS GOING FORWARD?

LIPSKY: OH, AS YOU CAN IMAGINE, AUGUST 31st SEEMS AN AWFULLY LONG WAY AWAY RIGHT NOW. I'M CONCENTRATING ON THE ISSUES RIGHT AT HAND FOR THIS INSTITUTION.

BARTIROMO: AND OF COURSE, THE ISSUES YOU WILL BE REPRESENTING THE IMF WE GROUP OF 8 FINANCE MINISTERS COMING UP THIS WEEK. WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH AT THAT MEETING, JOHN?

LIPSKY: THAT GROUP OF 8 IS AT THE LEVEL OF HEADS OF STATE AND THAT MEETING IS -- WHICH NORMALLY DOESN'T FOCUS ON FINANCIAL ECONOMIC ISSUES IS BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES, GOING TO HAVE A SPECIAL SESSION ON THE MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA AND ON AFRICA, SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA TWO SEPARATE SESSION, I WILL BE PARTICIPATING IN BOTH OF THOSE SESSIONS. WE HOPE TO HELP FORGE A CONSENSUS ON NEW PROGRESS IN ECONOMIC POLICY AND SUPPORT FOR BOTH OF THESE REGIONS SO THEY CAN TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES CREATED BY THE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS WHILE PROTECTING THEM FROM THE THE RISE IN FOOD AND ENERGY PRICES THAT IS MAKING THEIR NEAR-TERM SITUATION MORE DIFFICULT.

BARTIROMO: JOHN, WONDERFUL TO HAVE YOU ON THE PROGRAM.WE SO APPRECIATE YOUR TIME TODAY.

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