What’s a girl like her doing at a party like this?


BacklavaThat we live in ideologically confused times is apparent from the fact that the Kerala government has appointed Harvard University’s Gita Gopinath as financial adviser to the chief minister. While we can accept the evil necessity of communist parties understanding neo-liberal policies, surely they need to keep an arm’s length from capitalist theories, not invite the enemy into politburo meetings. Since outrage is an emotion we now feel every night 9 pm onwards, let us support CPM veteran VS Achuthanandan in his anger and despair.

The more pragmatic view is that it is all very well for armchair commentators to mock decisions but realpolitik is far removed from dialectic materialism. Gopinath has disavowed any intention to give up academia and relocate in God’s own country. It is only when the CM asks for her advice will she offer it. Moreover, her interventions are likely only when global, national and state events have an impact on Kerala’s economy. She would also facilitate giving of gyan by knowledge leaders around the world to various departments.

Perhaps she wants to keep a safe distance after the attack on RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan by that other Harvard economist Subramaniam Swamy. There is no doubt that Rajan — and Sam Pitroda — took a big risk by returning to Indian soil to put their ideas to the test. Informed circles understand their contribution, though giving report cards is fraught with risk. Gopinath too can be accused of not having an Indian mentality, as she moved out of the country at a young age. She is one of only three women to be granted tenure in Harvard’s economics department. And in 2010 she was the first Indian woman to get the honour.

It is reassuring to see, therefore, that she has a solid Indian education behind her. She did her Bachelor’s at Delhi’s LSR College and got a gold medal for topping the university. Her Master’s came from Delhi School of Economics, as did her husband, Iqbal Dhariwal. It is only then that she went to Princeton for her PhD. She taught at the University of Chicago before joining Harvard in 2005. Naturally, all this doesn’t come from espousing the cause of the proletariat or the peasant. She was in favour of ‘creative taxation’ rather than currency devaluation to help the French government boost its bottomline. She has stood for sound fiscal policy when an economy is in trouble. She has rubbed shoulders with representatives of the biggest business houses at the World Economic Forum as well as other august conventions around the world.

Here’s something that will made Leftists angry: Gopinath credits Ben Bernanke with using “all the tools at his disposal to avoid the mistakes that were made by the Federal Reserve during the Great Depression. The fact that the current financial crisis did not end up as a second major depression owes in a significant way to his policies. Going ahead, there is a serious need to address failures in financial regulation and growing budget deficits across the globe — to the extent that these issues receive a lot of attention and the momentum on reform is not lost.”

That Gopinath would look uncomfortable saluting a red flag is clear from her earlier endorsement of diesel deregulation and approved the Land Acquisition Bill. All this would typically lead to her stigmatisation as a ‘class enemy’ rather than a comrade. Of course, the Congress would be happy if the move to involve her by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan falls flat on its face, but one irrepressible MP has surprised his partymen (yet again!) by coming out in favour of the lady. That MP is Shashi Tharoor.
One look at her photographs, and you’d say: Tharoor would, wouldn’t he?