IMF Appoints Harvard’s Gita Gopinath as Chief Economist

IMF Appoints Harvard’s Gita Gopinath as Chief Economist

Gopinath is one of the leading scholars in exchange rates, sovereign debt and capital flows. Gita Gopinath during a debate at the IMF and World Bank Group annual meetings a year ago.

The International Monetary Fund appointed Harvard University’s Gita Gopinath as its new chief economist.

Ms. Gopinath, one of the leading scholars in exchange rates, sovereign debt and capital flows, will be the first woman to lead the IMF’s economic research department. She will take over from Maurice Obstfeld, who had previously announced his retirement.

“Gita is one of the world’s outstanding economists, with impeccable academic credentials, a proven track record of intellectual leadership, and extensive international experience,” IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said. “All this makes her exceptionally well-placed to lead our Research Department at this important juncture.”

Ms. Gopinath, 46 years old, has emerged as one of the leading thinkers on the global financial system, presenting her research at the Fed’s Jackson Hole, Wyo., symposium and working as co-editor of the American Economic Review, one of the most prestigious journals in the field of economics. The IMF said she has written 40 research papers on exchange rates, trade and investment, international financial crises, monetary policy, debt, and emerging-market crises.

In recent research, Ms. Gopinath has focused on the continued dominance of the U.S. dollar in the global financial system. In research earlier this year, she highlighted how 40% of world trade is denominated in dollars, a sum that is roughly four times higher than the U.S. share of world trade. Her research has helped explain how the rising dollar creates so much vulnerability in countries such as Argentina, which has experienced a drastic currency crisis this year and sought a bailout from the IMF.

Ms. Gopinath’s work has often had a strong practical bent, looking at how countries can respond to debt crises and examining the mechanics of how complex international economic forces work. A 2011 paper on how countries in the European Union could achieve results similar to a currency devaluation—despite not controlling their own currencies—was followed by the French government as it sought to cope with this decade’s financial crisis.

Ms. Gopinath was born in India. She received her B.A. from the University of Delhi and her Ph.D. from Princeton University, where her thesis advisers included economic luminaries Ben Bernanke before he became Federal Reserve chairman and Kenneth Rogoff, who was the IMF’s chief economist from 2001 to 2003.

In a 2016 interview with the Minneapolis Fed, Mr. Bernanke described Ms. Gopinath as “one of the strongest and most promising students I ever worked with.”

She has been a professor at Harvard since 2005. She is a U.S. citizen and overseas citizen of India, the IMF said.

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