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IMF names UC-Berkeley's Gourinchas as next chief economist

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International Monetary Fund logo is seen in Washington

By David Lawder and Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Monday it has appointed French-born University of California-Berkeley economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas as the Fund's next chief economist, replacing Gita Gopinath, who is joining the IMF management team this month.

The Fund said Gourinchas, who joined UC-Berkeley in 2003 and held previous economic posts at Princeton University and Stanford University, will start part-time on Jan. 24 and transition to full-time Fund work on April 1. As Economic Counsellor, he will serve as director of the IMF's Research Department.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Gourinchas "brings a stellar track record of scholarship and intellectual leadership in macroeconomic areas critical to our work — from global imbalances and capital flows to the stability of the international monetary and financial system, and more recently, to economic policies for the pandemic era."

Gourinchas has written extensively in recent years on the implications of the U.S. dollar's position as the world's dominant reserve currency. A 2019 paper concluded that the dollar's "hegemony" is not sustainable and the greenback eventually will likely co-exist with China's yuan and possibly the euro as dominant currencies.

Georgieva described Gourinchas as having "his finger on the pulse of global economic issues."

After nearly two years of disbursing emergency financing to developing countries to help them cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the Fund is shifting to their longer-term financing needs, including debt relief and pressures from rising interest rates and capital outflows.

The appointment of Gourinchas comes amid a reshuffling of management in the wake of a World Bank data scandal that occurred during Georgieva's time as the bank's CEO in 2017 and that had focused IMF board scrutiny on Georgieva last year.

The IMF board cleared Georgieva of any wrongdoing in World Bank data changes to improve China's business climate ranking, but U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had demanded Georgieva take concrete steps to ensure integrity of IMF data, even though Fund research was not called into question.

In December, Georgieva appointed Gopinath as the Fund's second-ranking official, putting her in a wide-ranging policy role overseeing IMF surveillance activities, research and flagship publications. She replaces Geoffrey Okamoto, a former Trump administration U.S. Treasury official, as first deputy managing director.

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Andrea Ricci)

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