Gita Gopinath, chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will leave her post in January, 2022, Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director announced on Tuesday. The 49-year-old prominent Indian-American economist will return to the Harvard University as planned when her public service leave of absence from the university ends, the Fund said.
Gopinath was the first-ever woman chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She joined the fund in October 2018 and led new IMF analytical research on the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination targets as well as on climate change mitigation.
“She made history as the first female Chief Economist of the Fund and we benefited immensely from her sharp intellect and deep knowledge of international finance and macroeconomics as we navigate through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression," IMF said.
Gopinath played a key role in drafting a $50 billion proposal on ending Covid-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40 per cent people of all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60 per cent by the first half of 2022. Her proposal won praise and later endorsed by the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the World Health Organization.
This work led to the creation of the multilateral task force made up of the leadership of the IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation and the World Health Organisation to help end the pandemic and the establishment of a working group with vaccine manufacturers to identify trade barriers, supply bottlenecks, and accelerate delivery of vaccines to low- and lower-middle income countries, the IMF said in a statement.
IMF managing director cited Gopinath’s “tremendous" impact on the IMF’s work while announcing her leave. “Gita’s contribution to the Fund and our membership has been truly remarkable – quite simply, her impact on the IMF’s work has been tremendous," Georgieva said in a statement.
Gopinath also helped set up a climate change team inside the IMF to analyse, among other things, optimal climate mitigation policies. “Gita also won the respect and admiration of colleagues in the Research Department, across the Fund, and throughout the membership for leading analytically rigorous work and policy-relevant projects with high impact and influence," she further added.
Before joining IMF as a chief economist, Gopinath was the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University. Her leave from Harvard, already extended by one year, was ending, and her family had remained in Boston, according to Reuters.
Born in December 1971 to Malayalee parents, Gopinath had her schooling in Kolkata and graduated from the Lady Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi. She did Masters from the Delhi School of Economics as well as from the University of Washington. Gopinath did her Ph.D in economics from Princeton University in 2001 and she was guided by Kenneth Rogoff, Ben Bernanke and Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas. She joined the University of Chicago in 2001 as an Assistant Professor before moving to Harvard in 2005. She became a tenured Professor there in 2010.
She is the third woman in the history of Harvard to be a tenured professor at its esteemed economics department and the first Indian since the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to hold that position.
Describing Gopinath’s appointment as the first female to occupy the top position in IMF, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the she is “one of the world’s outstanding economists with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership and extensive international experience."
(With inputs from agencies)