In surprise move, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath to take top leadership role

The move comes as a surprise because Gita Gopinath, the first woman to serve as the IMF’s chief economist, had said in October she planned to rejoin Harvard University in January.
International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath.(Reuters / File)
International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath.(Reuters / File)
Published on Dec 03, 2021 07:14 AM IST
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Bloomberg |

International Monetary Fund Chief Economist Gita Gopinath is set to take over from Geoffrey Okamoto as the institution’s No. 2 official, the institution said Thursday.

The move comes as a surprise because Gopinath, the first woman to serve as the IMF’s chief economist, had said in October she planned to rejoin Harvard University in January to retain her tenured facility post after three years of public service.

The IMF said in a statement that “some realignment in the roles and responsibilities of the fund’s senior management team is being undertaken.”

By tradition, the first deputy managing director is nominated by the U.S. and appointed by the IMF managing director. The Treasury endorses this choice and is pleased the job responsibilities of this role are being restored, according to a person familiar with the department’s position who asked not to be identified.

The first deputy managing director “will take the lead on surveillance and related policies, oversee research and flagship publications and help foster the highest-quality standards for fund publications,” the IMF said. 

Gopinath led the IMF’s research department through the pandemic era and a 2020 recession that was the worst peacetime decline since the Great Depression. She joined the Washington-based lender at the start of 2019, succeeding Maury Obstfeld, after having taught in Harvard’s economics department since 2005. She holds a doctorate in economics from Princeton University, where Ben Bernanke was among her advisers before he became Federal Reserve chairman. Another adviser was Ken Rogoff, one of Gopinath’s predecessors as IMF chief economist.

Okamoto, who took the first deputy MD position in March 2020, plans to return to the private sector, according to the statement. Before joining the fund, he was the U.S. Treasury Department’s acting assistant secretary for international finance and development, and a veteran of President Donald Trump’s trade negotiations with China. 

While at the fund, he helped guide it on country issues and in strengthening its relationships with key multilateral groups including the Group of Seven and Group of 20, the IMF said. 

During their time at the organization, the IMF issued a record $650 billion of reserves to help nations confront the Covid-19 crisis. The institution also weathered accusations that Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva improperly influenced a World Bank ranking of China’s business climate when she was a top official there. The scandal brought IMF data and forecasts under increasing scrutiny and poses a challenge to the fund in terms of protecting its reputation and credibility.

Georgieva repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and the IMF board in October said its investigation didn’t conclusively demonstrate that she played an improper role in the report in question.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022