Opinion Details

Geeta Gopinath - Chief Economist (IMF) - By Whatzoff

19/12/2019

Geeta Gopinath - Chief Economist (IMF)

Gita Gopinath is the John Zwaanstra Professor of International Studies and of Economics at Harvard University. She is currently on leave of public service from the economics department to serve as the Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Her research focuses on International Finance and Macroeconomics. She is the co-editor of the current Handbook of International Economics and was earlier the co-editor of the American Economic Review, managing editor of the Review of Economic Studies, and co-director of the International Finance and Macroeconomics program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She was a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, member of the economic advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Economic Adviser to the Chief Minister of Kerala state in India, and member of the Eminent Persons Advisory Group on G-20 Matters for India's Ministry of Finance.

Professor Gopinath is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Econometric Society. She is the recipient of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians by the Government of India, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Washington. She was named among Bloomberg 50 people who defined 2019, Foreign Policy named her one of the Top Global Thinkers in 2019, the IMF named her one of the top 25 economists under 45 in 2014, Financial Times named her one of the 25 Indians to Watch in 2012, and she was chosen as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2011.

Before coming to Harvard, she was an assistant professor of economics at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. She received her Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University, after earning a B.A. from Lady Sri Ram College, and M.A. degrees from the Delhi School of Economics and the University of Washington.

The IMF Chief Economist recommended that the Indian government should focus on structural reforms, clean-up of banks and labour reforms, with growth slowing to a six-year low

With economic growth slowing to a six-year low, Gita Gopinath says the government should undertake structural reforms such as bank clean-up and labour reforms to address the slowdown in domestic demand.

She added that the extent of the slowdown of the Indian economy has surprised many, “including us here at the IMF”.

The extent of India’s economic slowdown has surprised many, including us at the IMF: Gita Gopinath

Ms. Gopinath, 48, who is travelling to India this week, rooted for government policies focusing on managing a slowdown in domestic demand, and on boosting productivity growth and supporting employment creation in the medium term.

“Given the cyclical position and the structural challenges of the Indian economy at this point, we recommend that policies focus on managing the slowdown in domestic demand, and on boosting productivity growth and supporting employment creation in the medium term,” she told PTI in an interview.

Recommending a series of key policy priorities for the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, she said, “Politically, the time - early in the government’s second term - is right for a structural reform push.”

GDP growth slowed for the sixth consecutive quarter in the July-September quarter to 4.5% as manufacturing slumped on low domestic consumption.

Kolkata-born Ms. Gopinath said the policy priorities of the government should also include a credible fiscal consolidation path that is more ambitious than currently envisaged by the government.

“This is needed to reduce the high level of debt and reduce crowding out which would free up financial resources for private investment. This should be driven by subsidy-spending rationalisation and tax-base enhancing measures,” Ms. Gopinath said.

Responding to a question, Ms. Gopinath said India’s medium-term vision to reach a $5-trillion economy which focuses on boosting investment is appropriate. And so is the commitment to support the rural economy, boost infrastructure spending, streamline the goods and services tax (GST), direct tax reforms, and pursue a business-friendly policy agenda, she noted.

Three policy priorities

In this regard, Ms. Gopinath advocated, among others, three policy priorities for the Government of India.

First is to accelerate the clean-up of the banks, other financial institutions, and corporate balance sheets and enhance governance of public sector banks to revive bank credit and enhance the efficiency of credit provision, while monitoring closely emerging risks from the liquidity stress in non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and enhancing supervision and regulation of the NBFCs.

The Indian-American called for continued fiscal consolidation over the medium term - both at the Centre and State levels - to lower elevated public debt levels, supported by further steps to increase tax compliance and administration, as well as improve fiscal transparency.

And finally, labour, land, and product market reforms aimed at enhancing competition and governance, along with infrastructure investment, should be a priority to create more and better jobs for India’s young and rapidly growing labour force.

“Improvements in health and education are essential for broad-based inclusive growth,” Ms. Gopinath said.

Low food prices

She said, “The extent of the slowdown of the Indian economy has surprised many, including us here at the IMF (International Monetary Fund).”

“Growth slowed further to a six-year low of 4.5% (year-on-year) in the second quarter of FY2019-20 (July-September 2019), from 5% (year-on-year) in the previous quarter. A sharp moderation of investment, slowing consumption growth, and an inventory rundown contributed to the slowdown,” she said.

“We see several factors underlying the weakness of consumption and investment,” said the top IMF economist. “Rural income growth has been weak. Good monsoon rainfall, agriculture sector reform, and food management improvements have pushed down food prices. The low food prices represent a positive development in that they have supported the efforts of the Reserve Bank of India to keep inflation under control.”

She said low food prices hold back farmers’ income and thereby dampen demand. “Stresses in the bank and non-bank financial sector have adversely affected the availability of credit in the economy.”

“Consumption and investment have also been weighed down by weaknesses in specific sectors such as automobiles and real estate. Business sentiment has declined sharply,” she said.

Source : The Hindu

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