Bengaluru: Harvard economist Gita Gopinath will resign as the Kerala chief minister’s economic adviser, the only governmental association she took up in India, after being hired as chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.

“She is being appointed as IMF’s chief economist. So naturally, she will not be able to continue as an advisor to governments," said Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in a televised press meet on Wednesday.

The development brings to a close a unique association between one of India’s most noted neoliberal economists and the country’s only communist chief minister. Vijayan’s appointment of Gopinath, shortly after assuming power in 2016, had ruffled some feathers within his Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Gopinath stands for almost everything that Indian communists love to oppose. She advocates so-called neo-liberal economics while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) that leads the Kerala government vociferously opposes such policies nationally.

Neither is the Left in Kerala impressed by Gopinath’s earlier association with the US government, World Economic Forum and International Monetary Fund, institutions not known for their support to socialist programmes.

However, Vijayan, in his efforts to usher in a breakaway legacy for himself and the party, wanted Gopinath to send a signal to the local and global business community looking to invest in Kerala. But the nature of her advice, if any, in the two-year-long tenure, has been largely wrapped in secrecy, except for a few occasional remarks to the press.

In 2017, Gopinath had lauded the state’s public health infrastructure and called for more skill development initiatives. In 2018, she had expressed concerns on the state’s growing expenditure, effectively pointing toward the government’s extensive welfare spending.

A person close to Gopinath said she had spoken to Vijayan some weeks ago and had informed him about relinquishing the position.

“IMF will not allow her to take up any other assignment. She has two other jobs in the US now, both with the Federal Reserve. She will quit those too," the person said. A call for comments to Gopinath’s office cell in Harvard went unanswered.

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