India’s executive director to the International Monetary Fund and former deputy governor in the Reserve Bank of India Subir Vithal Gokarn, 60, died on Tuesday at Washington DC after a period of illness. Born on October 3, 1959, Dr. Gokarn is survived by his wife Dr. Jyotsna Bapat and daughter, Kanak.
“I am deeply saddened by the death of Subir Gokarn, who represented India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan at the IMF Executive Board. On behalf of the Fund, I would like to express my deepest condolences to his family and the authorities of his constituency," IMF acting managing director David Lipton wrote in a tweet.
Crisil chief economist DK Joshi who worked with Gokarn for a long period of time tweeted: “What a loss! Not only one of our finest brains an equally nice human being. Will miss his generosity and wisdom."
Gokarn who served as Deputy Governor under Governor Subbarao, handling the important portfolio of monetary policy for a period of three years starting November 2009 got an extension only for a month till 31 December. Once seen as a successor to Subbarao at the Mint Street, the United Progressive Alliance government did not give him an extension of another two years as sought by Subbarao. Gokarn’s name came up again for heading the central bank after the exit of Raghuram Rajan in June, 2016, but the NDA government opted for Urjit Patel who was then serving as a deputy governor. Gokarn was later nominated to the IMF by the National Democratic Alliance government in November 2015.
With his monk-like demeanour, Gokarn will be always brief and to the point during his interactions with reporters. “Blunt about facts and nuanced about complexities -- the explanations would start with his fingers adjusting his spectacles and end with a swish to tame his beard," veteran journalist Shankar Aiyar tweeted.
In one of his interactions with Mint in July 2014, when asked about what would be the source of future jobs in India, Gokarn said: “I have been very pessimistic about emulating a kind of China or East Asia strategy of manufacturing-led employment. Primarily because the nature of manufacturing has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. This blue-collar workforce... mass production kind of model... is completely in danger of being obsolete. Now, one way to look at it is, it is still in play as long as the cost structure remains competitive—if your wages are correct and your mass manufacturing labour-intensive operations are still commercially viable or competitive."
Prior to joining the RBI, Gokarn was Chief Economist of Standard & Poor’s Asia-Pacific, based in New Delhi. He assumed this position in August 2007 after having been Executive Director and Chief Economist of CRISIL.
Before joining CRISIL in 2002, he was Chief Economist at the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), New Delhi (2000-2002) and Associate Professor at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR), Mumbai (1991-2000).
A graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai in Economics (1979), Gokarn did his masters from Delhi School of Economics (1981) and subsequently Ph.D. in Economics at Case Western Reserve University, USA, which he received in 1989. His thesis work was on the impact of capital market liberalisation on industrial performance in South Korea. In 1997, he was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship, on which he spent an academic year at the Economic Growth Centre at Yale University, USA.