EYECATCHERS: A Mystic at the IMF

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Economists are often accused of indulging in mysticism; in the case of Hendrikus J. Witteveen (pronounced Wit-uh-vain) it is a simple statement of fact. A brilliant academic who twice was Finance Minister of The Netherlands, Witteveen is also a vice president of the Sufi movement, a Muslim sect that is dedicated to mysticism and to meditation.

Last week the modest and withdrawn Witteveen, 52, got a job in which he will have need of inner peace: he was appointed managing director of the 125-country International Monetary Fund. That body must construct a new world financial system to replace the one that has been destroyed by dollar devaluations.

The Nixon Administration blocked reappointment of Witteveen's predecessor, Pierre-Paul Schweitzer, a Frenchman, because U.S. officials felt that he had taken sides against the U.S. The monetary atmosphere, however, is becoming less testy. Last week an IMF committee representing 20 nations made much progress toward a consensus on outlines of a reformed system. Moneymen are optimistic that a written agreement on the bases of a new system can be approved at the IMF annual meeting next month.