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BW Businessworld

Gita Gopinath: A Woman Of Letters

The first woman chief economist of the IMF has many laurels to her name

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In October 2018 Gita Gopinath became the first woman chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She had already made a name for herself by then as a technocrat, author of several books and research articles on emerging markets, trade and investment, the stock markets and the international financial crisis. Gopinath’s appointment was announced just as she was building opinion about a world that was retreating from globalisation, to pose challenges for multilateral institutions.  

At present, Gopinath serves as an advisory member at the US Federal Reserve Bank and as co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics programme of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). She also serves as the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University but is currently on leave of public service. In the past she has served as economic advisor to the chief minister of Kerala. She has also been a member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters of the Union Ministry of Finance.

In announcing her appointment, the then managing director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, had said, “Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership, and extensive international experience.” Lagarde’s statement said, “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.” 

A US citizen now, Gopinath was born and raised in India. She did her post-graduation in economics from the Delhi School of Economics in 1994. She then acquired an M.A. degree from the University of Washington in 1996. In 2001, she obtained her Ph.D. degree from Princeton University, where her thesis advisors included Professor Ben Bernanke (former chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve of the United States) and Professor Ken Rogoff (former chief economist of the IMF). She was awarded the Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Research Award while doing her doctoral research. In 2001, Gopinath joined the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business as an assistant professor. After nine years, she moved to Harvard and was appointed a tenured professor. 

Gopinath is co-editor of the American Economic Review and the current Handbook of International Economics with former IMF Economic Counsellor, Kenneth Rogoff. 

Christine Lagarde, IMF MD in 2018 had said, “Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership ...”


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