Kerala chief minister and CPM Polit Bureau member Pinarayi Vijayan’s move to appoint 44-year-old Harvard economist Gita Gopinath as financial advisor to the state government took the party by surprise. Getting Gopinath, who did her PhD in International Macroeconomics and Trade under the guidance of former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and former chief economist and director of research at the IMF, Ken Rogoff, is a sea-change for a party that has all along opposed neoliberal policies at the Centre. While party loyalists believe that such an appointment should have been made only with political consensus, Vijayan insists he is tapping the services of a world renowned economist from the state.
Getting Gopinath on board is a good move in a state where the fiscal deficit as a share of GSDP remains in the region of 3.59% against the targeted 3% in FY15. Considering that industry plays a small role in Kerala, where much of the revenues come from tourism, services and agriculture, it remains to be seen what she can do. How her expertise in international macroeconomics could come in handy for a state whose biggest export is human labour is a moot point. What is positive for Kerala and Gopinath is that Vijayan is keen on pushing much delayed projects like the widening of national highways and laying the Kochi-Mangalapuram LNG pipeline. Just a few days back, senior lawyer MK Damodaran did not take up the role of legal advisor to the state. Gopinath has a tougher task than managing international microeconomics in her home state. Yet, getting her on board is a good move.