IMF appoints Gita Gopinath as the first woman chief economist

The second Indian to be appointed to the position after Raghuram Rajan


October 4, 2018

/ By / Kolkata

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Gita Gopinath at a conference of central bankers hosted by the Bank of France in 2014.

Gita Gopinath at a conference of central bankers hosted by the Bank of France in 2014.

Born and brought up in India, Gita Gopinath is a tenured professor at Harvard University’s department of economics. She has published close to 40 research works and was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.

On October 1, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Christine Lagarde announced the appointment of Gita Gopinath as the chief economist of IMF. Gopinath will succeed Maurice Obsfelt to the position with Obsfelt having announced in July that he was scheduled to retire from his position at the end of 2018.

Gopinath is going to be the first woman to hold the position while also being the second Indian to become the IMF chief economist being preceded by Raghuram Rajan who served in the position from September 1, 2003 to January 1, 2007.

Gopinath is currently serving as the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University. Her previous positions include the post of being the financial advisor to the chief minister of Kerala, Pinrayi Vijayan much to the consternation of members of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) who viewed her neo-liberal political ideology with disdain.

“Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership, and extensive international experience. 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,” Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

Born in Kerala to TV Gopinath, a farmer and entrepreneur, and VC Vijayalakshmi, Gopinath hails from Kerala’s Kannur district. She grew up in Mysore and pursued higher education in Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She later pursued her Masters at the Delhi School of Economics. In an interview to international media she said, “When you’re growing up in India, everybody expects you to become a doctor or an engineer and not exactly an economist.” In 1996, following an attempt at cracking the Indian Adminstrative Examination, she realized that she had “absolutely zero administrative skills.”

Following this, she joined the University of Washington to pursue a second Masters’ degree in economics. In 2001, she completed her Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, where economist Ken Rogoff and former chair of the US Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke were among her mentors. Gopinath’s specialisation is in international macroeconomics and trade.

Gopinath is the co-editor of the American Economic Review and also that of the current Handbook of International Economics with former IMF Economic Counsellor Kenneth Rogoff. She also is the co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). She has published multiple research works on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging market crises.

She joined the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in 2001 before moving in on to Harvard University in 2005. It was in 2010, that she finally received the position of a tenured professor in the university. She is the third woman and the second Indian after Nobel Laurete Amartya Sen to be a tenured professor at the Department of Economics in Harvard.



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