Nothing could be as pleasing as the news that a Kolkata-born Keralite, a Jawaharlal Nehru University ( JNU) alumnus to boot ~ amongst Gita Gopinath’s other stupendous academic credentials ~ has been appointed as the first ever woman chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. Kolkata, Kerala and the JNU are all anathema to the government in power and it would be witless to have expected New Delhi to have considered tapping into intellect such as Gopinath’s even as it clutches at straws trying to navigate extremely straitened times.
As has been pointed out, IMF’s gain has been India’s loss for the 46-year old ‘neo-liberal’ had given an excellent account of her abilities as the economic adviser to the Chief Minister of Kerala, an honorary position to which she was appointed in 2016, with the rank of principal secretary. That Gopinath could serve Kerala was courtesy its chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan (CPI-M), who chose to take on his party’s old guard and inject new blood in its economic thinking to keep abreast with demands of modern day economies.
She could hardly have been “too right-wing” given that Kerala was looking at a loss of Middle East remittances and even lower liquor sale revenues; its main financial pillars. Gopinath brought to bear her Princeton education and Harvard experience to provide the right perspective into managing the economy; her family’s background in the Communist movement of yesteryears possibly investing her with the spirit of inclusiveness that all modern societies should have to sustain themselves in a democratic set-up. Not just Gopinath, India has shown remarkable skill in alienating all economic masters with ability to contribute with their enlightened thinking rooted in socio-economic sustainability that the country deserves.
Not just Raghuram Rajan, whose unhappy tryst with economic management of the country had sorely disappointed Gopinath, any economist of stature ~ including the two Arvinds, Subramanian and Panagariya ~ refusing to fall in line with the government’s thinking is made unwelcome in the country. Gopinath could certainly not have endeared herself to the current dispensation with her sharp criticism of demonetisation, which no macroeconomist had considered a worthwhile idea.
Her sharp rebuttal of the attempt to explain the move as one needed to address India’s high per capita cash is one for the record books: “Japan has the highest cash per capita, way more than India. The cash in circulation, relative to the gross domestic product for India was 10 per cent, whereas in Japan it is 60 per cent. That is not black money; that is not corruption”. Regrettably, the black money stays, the corruption stays, only talent seeks to flee India.