By Elton Gomes
Indian-origin Harvard University professor Gita Gopinath has been appointed as chief economist at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international organisation said in a tweet. Gopinath replaces outgoing chief economist Maury Obstfeld, who is set to retire in December.
Gopinath is currently the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University. Her research focuses on international finance and macroeconomics. Gopinath is also the second Indian Former Reserve Bank of India governor to hold the position. Raghuram Rajan previously held the position, and Gopinath becomes the second Indian after Rajan to be appointed as chief economist.
“Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership, and extensive international experience,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said in an official statement. “All this makes her exceptionally well-placed to lead our Research Department at this important juncture. I am delighted to name such a talented figure as our Chief Economist.”
Who is Gita Gopinath?
Hailing from Kerala’s Kannur district, Gopinath grew up in Mysore and studied at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women (LSR). Thereafter, she went on to study at the Delhi School of Economics. Gopinath has earned her PhD in economics from Princeton University in 2001, and she was guided by Kenneth Rogoff, Ben Bernanke and Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas. Gopinath then joined the University of Chicago in 2001 as an assistant professor before moving to Harvard in 2005. She became a tenured professor at Harvard in 2010.
After Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, Gopinath is the third woman and first Indian to become a tenured professor at Harvard’s Department of Economics. Gopinath also had a stint with the Indian government when she was appointed a financial advisor to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in 2016. Gopinath has also been a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for India’s Ministry of Finance. Gopinath’s selection as an advisor to Chief Minister Vijayan was not taken favourably as many members of from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) opposed her views.
More recently, she has voiced her critique against the Narendra Modi government, particularly for the slow pace of reforms and demonetisation that was announced in 2016.
In 2014, the IMF named Gopinath among one of the top 25 economists under 45 and she was also chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.
Currently, Gopinath is co-editor of the American Economic Review and co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). In addition, she is co-editor of the current Handbook of International Economics with Former IMF Economic Counsellor Kenneth Rogoff.
Gopinath has also authored almost 40 research articles on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging market crises.
Gopinath’s role in the IMF
Writing for the Indian Express, Pramod Kumar notes that Gopinath’s role in the IMF could be minimal as she is not known outside her body of work. Kumar points out that Gopinath has not been recognized outside her work, except for her policy intervention in trade, currencies, and other aspects of global capitalism. Though her technical skills might be useful in the advancement of capital markets and macroeconomic policies, they might hold little value to real life economics in countries such as India.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.
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