Gita Gopinath joins IMF as its first female Chief Economist

Mysore-born Gita Gopinath has joined International Monetary Fund as its Chief Economist, becoming the first woman to occupy the top IMF post.

Gopinath’s joined last week at a time, when she believes the world is experiencing a retreat from globalisation, posing challenges to multilateral institutions. The John Zwaanstra professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University, Gopinath, 47, succeeds Maurice (Maury) Obstfeld as Economic Counsellor and Director of the IMF’s Research Department. Obstfeld retired December 31.

Announcing her appointment on October 1, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde described her as one of the world’s outstanding economists with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership and extensive international experience. The 11th chief economist of the IMF, Gopinath in a recent interview to The Harvard Gazette described her appointment at the IMF as a tremendous honour and said the appointment of the first ever woman for this position speaks highly of IMF’s Managing Director Lagarde. She is phenomenal, not just in her leadership of the IMF but as a role model for women around the world, she said.

Foreign direct investment [FDI] was always viewed very favourably by countries. But because most of the FDI is now in tech-heavy firms, there are growing concerns about national security and international property theft. So I believe this retreat from globalisation and this retreat from multilateralism is quite unique to the times we are living in, Gopinath said.

Another important concern, she said, is the health of emerging markets as the US continues to normalize its interest rates. The capital flows to several markets have reversed, putting pressure on their exchange rates and consequently on inflation, and on balance sheets, given that several emerging markets borrow heavily in dollars, said the IMF Chief Economist.

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