Obama adviser Maurice Obstfeld takes over as IMF's new chief economist

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has appointed Maurice Obstfeld, an academic and an adviser to the US president Barack Obama, as its new chief economist who will replace the retiring Olivier Blanchard in September.

 
Maurice Obstfeld  will succeed Olivier Blanchard as the new chief economist of the IMF  

"I am thrilled to have Maurice join us at the Fund. His outstanding academic credentials and extensive international experience make him exceptionally well placed to provide intellectual leadership to the IMF at this important juncture," IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said in a statement.

"Obstfeld is known around the globe for his work on international economics and is considered one of the most influential macroeconomists in the world,'' Lagarde said.

Obstfeld, 63, a professor of economics at the university of California, Berkeley, is currently on leave serving as a member of Obama's council of economic advisers. He has advised many governments and consulted at central banks all over the world.

Obstfeld co-authored two influential textbooks on international economics, Foundations of International Macroeconomics with former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff and International Economics with Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and Harvard professor Marc Melitz.

His other honors include the Johan von Neumann award given by Hungary's Rajk Laszio college for advanced studies, the Bernhard Harms prize awarded by Germany's Kiel institute and the Tjalling Koopmans asset award of Tilburg university in the Netherlands.

Obstfeld's research focuses on exchange rates, international financial crises, global capital-market integration, and monetary policy in open economies.

He graduated from the university of Pennsylvania, did his post graduation from Cambridge and received his doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1979.

Obstfeld served from 2002 to 2014 as honorary advisor to the Bank of Japan's institute of monetary and economic studies and is a fellow of the econometric society and the American academy of arts and sciences. He has served both on the executive committee and as vice president of the American economic association. He has also been a research fellow at the IMF on four separate occasions, most recently in 2012.

''The position of economic counsellor is of fundamental importance to the IMF's ability to provide its global membership with the best possible independent analysis and policy advice. I am confident that we have found an exceptional candidate in Maurice to take this work forward,'' Lagarde said.

Peterson institute for international economics senior fellow Jacob Kirkegaard told Reuters that Obstfeld was well qualified for the position, with extensive academic research as well as hands-on policy experience.

According to Kirkegaard, it was too early to say if he would continue the IMF's shift toward supporting more stimulative fiscal policy, noting Obstfeld had worked with both Rogoff, arguing high debt drags on growth, and Krugman, who warned earlier this year against the resurgence of "austerity fever."

"Someone who has co-authored economic textbooks with both Paul Krugman and Ken Rogoff certainly will know how to navigate both sides of the austerity versus stimulus debate," Kirkegaard was quoted as saying.