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Indian-American Gita Gopinath joins IMF as its first female chief economist

Prominent Indian-American economist Gita Gopinath has joined as the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, becoming the first woman to occupy the top post at the global lender.

Gopinath, 47, 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, a US citizen, 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, Mysore-born 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.

Identifying some of her top priorities at the IMF, Gopinath told The Harvard Gazette that she would like the IMF to continue to be a place that provides intellectual leadership on important policy questions.

“Among the research issues that I would like to push, one would be understanding the role of dominant currencies like the dollar in international trade and finance. We could do more on the empirical side to try to understand countries’ dollar exposures and on the theoretical side in terms of the implications for international spillovers, consequences of dollar shortages, etc,” she said.

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