WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The International Monetary
Fund on Thursday named its chief economist Gita Gopinath to
become its second-ranking official, replacing First Deputy
Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto who will leave the global
lender in early 2022.
Gopinath had been scheduled to leave the global lender to
return to Harvard University in January, but decided to stay on
in the wide-ranging policy role under IMF Managing Director
Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF said.
Georgieva said Gopinath was "universally recognized as one
of the worlds leading macroeconomists" and had precisely the
expertise needed for the No. 2 job, given the increased
macroeconomic challenges facing IMF member countries as a result
of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Indeed, her particular skill set combined with her years
of experience at the Fund as Chief Economist - make her uniquely
well qualified. She is the right person at the right time,"
She said the IMF would realign some roles and
responsibilities in its senior management team, with Gopinath to
oversee surveillance activities, and research and flagship
publications, while working to "foster the highest quality
standards for Fund publications."
The United States, the largest shareholder in the IMF,
welcomed the pick of Gopinath, and the move to restore job
responsibilities that had been shifted under Okamoto, a source
familiar with Treasury's thinking said.
Gopinath, the first woman to serve as the fund's chief
economist, has played a key role in broadening the role of the
IMF's research department, creating a new analytical approach to
help countries respond to international capital flows, and also
worked on a detailed IMF plan to end the pandemic, she said.
Okamoto said he would return to the private sector after
over a decade of "intensive public service," but gave no details
about his next position.
A dual citizen of the United States and India, Gopinath is
due to start her new role on Jan. 21, shortly after the IMF
releases an update to its World Economic Outlook. The IMF board
is expected to approve the move in coming weeks.
The leadership changes come on the heels of an independent
report commissioned by the World Bank, which claimed Georgieva,
then the CEO of the World Bank, and other senior officials had
pressured World Bank staff to alter data to favor China.
The IMF executive board cleared Georgieva of any wrongdoing
in October, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said
Washington viewed the allegations as legitimate and serious, and
IMF take proactive steps to ensure the integrity of IMF data
and protection of any whistleblowers.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal; additional
reporting by Chris Gallagher
Editing by Marguerita Choy)