Jensen is the leader of Norway’s Progress Party, which has libertarian and anti-immigrant leanings. However, Jensen, who has busts of both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in her office, is known as a moderate. She was appointed in October by Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, and will have to contend with Norwegian expectations of generous benefits, amid slowing growth.
Okonjo-Iweala has earned international acclaim for her pro-growth policies in Nigeria, even though her anti-corruption stance regularly earns her death threats at home. Time has called her a hero, and she was a strong contender to succeed Paul Wolfowitz as the president of the World Bank last year. With degrees from Harvard and MIT, her policies have been credited for delivering a serious boost to the country’s economy.
Maria Luís Albuquerque
When indebted Portugal accepted a bailout from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank, it also agreed to strict austerity measures that have rankled the electorate. Last summer, sitting finance minister Vítor Gaspar resigned, citing in part a lack of popular and political support for his policies. Luís Albuquerque took his place — and his problems. The country is closer than before to solvency, but the new finance minister will likely need to make both more reforms and more painful decisions.
In 2012, the Swiss lawyer-by-training served as the country’s president, a post that rotates among Switzerland’s seven-member executive body, the Federal Council. That setup has allowed Widmer-Schlumpf to wear many hats. As president and as finance minister (and justice minister before that) Widmer-Schlumpf has worked with the U.S. on banking regulation while also working to preserve Swiss banks’ secrecy rules.
Recession-battered Finland is in a difficult political position. Growth has slowed, and debt is mounting. Plus, like some others in the euro bloc, the Finnish aren’t exactly thrilled by the idea of bailing out other struggling countries. Urpilainen made waves in 2012 when she said that, “Finland will not hang itself to the euro at any cost, and we are prepared for all scenarios,” indicating it could pull out of the currency. Since then, the euro zone appears more stable, but Urpilainen’s job of bringing down the country’s mounting debt load without causing more pain, remains a tough one.
Kiwanuka studied commerce at Uganda’s Makerere University before decamping to London to get her MBA. She spent more than 10 years working with the World Bank, and later, 14 years in private industry in Uganda. She was appointed to the finance minister role in 2011. It’s not an easy job (the S&P recently cut the country’s credit rating), but Kiwanuka sees big opportunities for Uganda in oil, tourism, and manufacturing.
Lina Olinda Pedraza Rodríguez
It’s still a far cry from U.S. capitalism, but in recent years Cuba has taken some steps toward loosening state control over the economy. In a few notable examples, the government said it would allow people to freely buy and sell used vehicles, and get new cars without requiring a permit. Reform is slow in coming. For starters, the new cars on the market are priced so high almost no one can afford them. But lately Cuba’s leaders — Pedraza included — have indicated they’re lightening up. According to Brookings Institution research, about 40% of Cuba’s workforce is now employed by the private sector. Pedraza has said she hopes to get that figure up to 50% by 2015.