The International Monetary Fund has picked its chief economist Gita Gopinath to become the fund’s second-highest ranking official. She will replace Geoffrey Okamoto as first deputy managing director early next year.
Ms Gopinath had been scheduled to return to her academic position at Harvard University in January, according to a statement from the IMF on Thursday. She is on leave of public service from Harvard University’s economics department.
“Especially given that the pandemic has led to an increase in the scale and scope of the macroeconomic challenges facing our member countries, I believe that Gita – universally recognised as one of the world’s leading macroeconomists – has precisely the expertise that we need for the FDMD role at this point,” Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF’s managing director, said. “She is the right person at the right time.”
The Washington-based fund is realigning the roles and responsibilities of its senior management team to tackle the complex policy choices and difficult trade-offs facing the IMF’s 190 member countries, she added.
Ms Gopinath, who is a US national and overseas citizen of India, is the first female chief economist in IMF history.
Ms Gopinath’s contribution to the IMF’s work has already been exceptional, especially her “intellectual leadership in helping the global economy and the Fund to navigate the twists and turns of the worst economic crisis of our lives”, Ms Georgieva said.
“Over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to experience first-hand and be a part of the hugely important work done by the IMF at the intersection of rigorous economic analysis and public policy,” Ms Gopinath said.
“It has been so gratifying to see the positive impact of our work on economies and on the lives of so many people worldwide. As the pandemic continues its grip on us, the work of the Fund has never been more critical and international cooperation never more important.”
Ms Georgieva highlighted Mr Okamoto’s significant role in helping to strengthen the IMF’s internal management – from budget to the modernisation of technology and other systems, according to the statement.
“Geoffrey has made important contributions across the broad range of our work programme, from our lending and debt policies in a time of crisis to helping enhance our focus on trade, anti-corruption and governance issues,” she said.
“He has also helped guide us on a large number of country issues and in strengthening our relationships with key multilateral groups including at high-level G7 and G20 meetings.”
Mr Okamoto said he is eager to return to the private sector after more than a decade of public service.
“I wish Fund colleagues all the success in helping countries tackle the challenges that remain from the current crisis and chart a course to robust recovery,” he said.